As the world’s media attention continues to focus on Nepal, we’ve heard from a Dorset teacher who used to live there. Here we share some of Chris Maxted’s thoughts as he seeks to encourage the relief effort following the devastating earthquake.
Since the disaster, recalling his time living in the Gorkha district of Nepal has become a far more poignant experience for Chris.
Having left his teaching job at a middle school in Poole, he travelled to Nepal in 2010, and by chance ended up working in Shree Rameshwory School in the village of Bungkot, Gorkha; first for a few weeks, then for many months. It was to become the beginning of a lasting friendship with the people of this region.
“Being part of village life is such a humbling experience,” said Chris, 35, now based in Hong Kong. “Especially in this remote part of Nepal, where the trappings of modern life are just so far away. I was accepted immediately into the community and integrated into their daily routines. I lived in the tiny attic room of the Thapa family’s farmhouse. They are my closest friends in Nepal.”
As a result of the earthquake over 90% of the villagers of Bungkot, including the entire Thapa family, are now homeless and desperately waiting for relief to reach them.
“Everyone’s houses are either damaged or completely destroyed, and my family are all sleeping outside,” said Nabaraj Thapa, a native of Gorkha now living in Kathmandu.“We are trying our best to get shelter, food and medicine to them quickly, but conditions are very hard.”
Sadly, due to the proximity of the epicentre to Gorkha and the remoteness of these villages, this story is the same all over the district. Entire communities have been decimated, and the geography and weather are posing considerable challenges to the relief effort.
It was in 2010 that Chris first established contact with The Gorkha Foundation, a US-based charity who focus on providing development in education, healthcare, microcredit and agriculture for the under privileged communities in this predominantly rural district. Over the years they have collaborated on numerous projects in educational development for the people of Gorkha.
“At this moment the world spotlight is shining on Gorkha, but for such unfortunate reasons,” said Chris. “In the aftermath of the earthquake, we are working very closely with the Gorkha Foundation to raise funds internationally and to deploy supplies as best we can.”
Gorkha Foundation is using its extensive local knowledge of the district to provide crucial logistical assistance and manpower to the efforts of Doctors Without Borders, The Red Cross, Mercy Corps and the Nepalese Army. Together they are helping co-ordinate relief to ensure that aid is successfully focused on those who need it the most.
“Surgical teams made it through yesterday,” said Bijaya Devkota, Director of Gorkha Foundation. “But resources will dictate the reach of the relief effort. At the moment we desperately need to raise more money to fund the logistics of providing help to these people.”
Shree Rameshwory School, where Chris taught, is now barely standing. Just like so many other buildings all over the region, it is now a danger to itself and to those around it.
“It is going to take so long for these people to rebuild their lives, physically and spiritually, after something as huge as this,” said Chris. “At the moment however, our priority is to make sure people are safe from disease and from the elements, and that they have enough food and water to keep going. For that we need funds. Despite the pressure everyone is under, it is such a relief to know that organisations like Gorkha Foundation are on the frontline.”
To contribute to the relief effort in Gorkha, go to www.gorkhafoundation.org.