I have been out in the field with All Hands for 2 days now. I joined a rubble crew that is clearing up an elderly man’s home in the hills about 45 minutes from the center of Kathmandu. The house, a 2 story brick and mud brick house, had been reduced to what first looked like, to my naive eyes, a short pile of muddy debris. The size of the pile was quite deceiving though. First off, we do all the clearing/leveling work by hand with shovels, pick axes, and wheelbarrows. Also, it rains everyday so the soil gets heavier and more slippery the longer we work at the site. Lastly, there are lots of shovel stopping obstacles in the debris pile.
Imagine going out into your garden to dig for potatoes. Expect instead of potatoes your garden is full of bricks. Every time you dig down a few inches a brick, wood, wiring, carpets or clothing abruptly stops your progress. It is very slow going and physically is the most difficult work I have done in years.
Our rubble team is made up of volunteers from America, India, Nepal, Hong Kong, England, Holland, and Italy. AHV provides communal housing and meals meaning volunteers work together, live together, and eat together 6 days a week.
The family makes us tea each morning and cooks our lunch. We eat traditional Nepali food like dal and curry made with bitter melon over rice.
Other AHV projects include working in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, on demolition crews, and building temporary learning centers and houses in Kathmandu. Teams also work in a more rural area a few hours outside of Kathmandu that is closer to the epicenter of the earthquake. Each evening a name lottery is held to choose the next days work assignment, but because I am new to AHV this week I am attending an orientation session tomorrow morning and will be working in an IDP camp in the afternoon.
Everywhere we go people stare at our group and I am so curious what they think of us being here. Here are a few reactions we’ve gotten:
- The Nepali men were surprised to see women on the crews. Since we’ve seen Nepali women moving rocks and mixing cement, possibly they meant they were surprised to see white women working like that.
- Another volunteer was asked what crime she had committed that caused her country to send her to Nepal to work as punishment.
- I was told by the family at the work site that I looked like Buddha. Huh?
I will be raising money for Project Nepal until I leave the project in August. If you’d like to support our work, please donate here.