I came back from Nepal about a month ago. I have friends there, but had had mixed feelings about going. I needed to know that they were safe and well after the earthquake. But it also troubles me when visitors see disasters as some sort of tourist attraction.
Those living in tents in Kathmandu don’t do so from choice. They do not cook on little fires for fun. They’d not share stinking toilets if there were any alternatives. And the last thing they need is tourists holding their noses and patronising them.
But my friends invited me. I love them, and so I went
It was instantly apparent that I’m not the only person who has been reluctant to go back to Nepal. All the tour groups cancelled after the earthquake. Even the backpackers have been giving the country a miss. And so the hoteliers, the restaurateurs, the guides and the taxi drivers and the shopkeepers, have all seen incomes from tourism plummet. In a country that relies on visitors for foreign investment, the impact on the economy has been devastating.
Preparing my notes
So I put out posts on my blog, on twitter and facebook – not because I am any sort of social media junkie, but simply to remind those who might be wondering where go next that Nepal is open for business. The mountains are still there. All but one of the big treks are open. The hotels and restaurants are still there.
The culture hasn’t changed
The welcome is as generous as ever. I know of a few people going as a result of my efforts – not a flood of people, but a dribble. And hopefully they will tell their friends and it will become a tide.
For me – it wasn’t enough. The ‘light bulb’ of how I might help was turned on in the mountains
My guide and I strolled into a small village and were greeted by a close friend of his. A man with a huge smile, who held my hand while I stepped over puddles. A man living with his mother and his wife and two small children.
His house, he told me, is ‘a little bit damaged 'Later my guide elaborated. ‘The top storey of his house has collapsed. They are living on the ground floor, under the rubble. It was the only way to stay dry during the monsoon.’
‘So can he repair it?’
‘No – the house will have to come down and he will start again. But my friend, he can do the work himself. If there were money.’
‘So how much will it cost?’
‘About £1500,’ my guide said.
That’s all. Just £1500.
A house in the mountains
That’s when it came to me. I can’t rebuild Kathmandu. I can’t rebuild a small town, or even a village. But I can pay to rebuild one house. To give one family – currently living in the dust and the debris of the earthquake – somewhere safe and dry to live.
A small room for his wife and mother to do the cooking. Dry spaces for them to sleep. Somewhere the children can play and do their homework
There is a small charity working in the village. Money paid to their account will go directly to this family, without any pockets being lined along the way.
So now – the fundraising. I’ve a GoFundMe page which has raised enough money (as I write this) for the foundations. Pound by pound we will accumulate bricks. I am also writing an ebook about this trip, and all the proceeds from that will pay for the roof.
I’m not a natural fundraiser, and so it’s been quite a learning curve, getting this up and running. But the appeal is on its way. We do not have to be overwhelmed by all the things we can’t do, for we can do this. We can – and we will – build a house in Nepal
Please, if you’ve pound or two hidden in the sofa or stashed under the mattress, help build this house. I’ve already made enough for the foundations: now for the bricks. You can help me here.