It's Been Over A Year Since the Nepal Earthquakes and They Are Still Living In Tents

In February my husband and I went to a Joss Stone concert in Kathmandu. I hadn’t heard her songs in years. What were the odds of her being in Nepal? Regardless, she came and we went. The concert included a pre-music dinner. And while we were eating a nice couple from Montreal asked if they could join our table. We agreed. At the time I didn't  know that Joss Stone was going to pave the way for me to do great work for an amazing cause. 

I learned that Mélanie is the director for ShenPen, a Buddhist organization that has a large number of projects for a small but mighty nonprofit. Over dinner, she told me about a Tamang community that had been displaced from their village after the earthquakes of 2015. I learned that the community was working tirelessly without pay to build a set of 55 homes on a piece of donated land.  Shenpen was supporting them by providing materials, transport, and the support of engineers and architects. The nonprofit was starting a fundraising campaign to try to finish the project and needed someone to help them with storytelling. 

Moti Maya was only seventeen when she experienced her first earthquake¬, an 8.4M shock that struck Nepal on January 15, 1934. Eighty-one years later, her home was destroyed by the recent massive quake in 2015 that also killed four people in her small village. After two months of living in the destruction with very little food, Maya Moti left everything she knew and went by helicopter to start a new life in Dhola.  She spent the last year living in a tent, but her spirit remains strong and positive. While she confirms that nothing remains for her family in their old village, she finds all these changes in her life exciting. She expects she will die soon but is pleased that her daughter, son, and grandchildren will now have a safe place to call home in Dhola.  Moti Maya’s wish is that her community will live in harmony while undertaking their project of building their fifty-five new homes.

Moti Maya was only seventeen when she experienced her first earthquake¬, an 8.4M shock that struck Nepal on January 15, 1934. Eighty-one years later, her home was destroyed by the recent massive quake in 2015 that also killed four people in her small village. After two months of living in the destruction with very little food, Maya Moti left everything she knew and went by helicopter to start a new life in Dhola.

She spent the last year living in a tent, but her spirit remains strong and positive. While she confirms that nothing remains for her family in their old village, she finds all these changes in her life exciting. She expects she will die soon but is pleased that her daughter, son, and grandchildren will now have a safe place to call home in Dhola.

Moti Maya’s wish is that her community will live in harmony while undertaking their project of building their fifty-five new homes.

I was still trying to get permission to work in Nepal. This project landing in my lap seemed like exactly the kind of thing I should put my energy toward until I got my paperwork settled. I decided that the Build Homes, Heal Hearts campaign would be a good fit for a pro bono project. 

I traveled with Mélanie to Dhola. I met the entire community. I interviewed single mothers, carpenters, monks, and a resident who was over ninety years old. I slept in a tent and ate the food that they carefully prepared. It seemed that very little in their life had improved. It's been over a year since the earthquakes but most of the world has forgotten about Nepal. I was witness to a community trying to do one thing– survive. 

Normal.dotm 
 0 
 0 
 1 
 147 
 840 
 AJ 
 7 
 1 
 1031 
 12.0 
  
  
 
  
    
  
 0 
 false 
 
 
 18 pt 
 18 pt 
 0 
 0 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
  
  
  
  
 
  
    
  
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0in;
	mso-para-margin-right:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0in;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:12.0pt;
	font-family:"Times New Roman";
	mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
	mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
  My name is Maya Tamang and I am 32 years. Before the earthquake, I had never carried rocks, sand, or rods. I did not know about building houses. But I have learned to do all of those things and take care three children on my own.  On the day of the earthquake, I was working on the ridge of the mountain. I rushed home after the shaking. My house was gone and my children were terrified. My husband never came home that day, and we never found his body.  He had gone into the forest to collect wood, the entire area was covered in landslide.  I stayed in my old home for over a month before I was moved to Dhola.  I am doing outdoor work for the first time in my life. I cook, gather wood, and water. It is very difficult. But I am happy to be part of the collective effort to build our homes. I hope that once we have a house my children and I will be settled.  After we have a home, I will have time to knit and make sweaters to sell so I can make a living. I hope my children will do well in school and do much with their minds. 

My name is Maya Tamang and I am 32 years. Before the earthquake, I had never carried rocks, sand, or rods. I did not know about building houses. But I have learned to do all of those things and take care three children on my own.

On the day of the earthquake, I was working on the ridge of the mountain. I rushed home after the shaking. My house was gone and my children were terrified. My husband never came home that day, and we never found his body.  He had gone into the forest to collect wood, the entire area was covered in landslide.

I stayed in my old home for over a month before I was moved to Dhola.  I am doing outdoor work for the first time in my life. I cook, gather wood, and water. It is very difficult. But I am happy to be part of the collective effort to build our homes. I hope that once we have a house my children and I will be settled.

After we have a home, I will have time to knit and make sweaters to sell so I can make a living. I hope my children will do well in school and do much with their minds. 

Since that visit, Shenpen and I have worked together to create videos, written stories, photos, and social media posts to share the stories of Dhola with the world. I’d like to ask you to check out the campaign on facebook. If you’re inspired and want to do something that helps this community­– donate here. If you can't donate please post a link to this blog on your social media accounts so we can share this story with the world.

Check out the first video I made for the campaign to learn about how the community started their life over in Dhola. 

I’m so thankful that I had this opportunity to learn more about Nepal and to meet the community of Dhola. I can't help but want to do as much as possible to help them. It seems to me that shelter should be a basic human right. I'd be grateful if you could do what you can to help the community of Dhola.  

A Photographer in Nepal: The Annapurnas with Three Sisters Adventure Trekking

The last half-mile of our climb was a straight uphill climb. I was hot and sweating profusely. A cold beer had never tasted better. As it hit my lips, I wondered who had carried the heavy glass beverages up the mountain, accessible only by steep, uneven stone steps.

Over drinks our trekking guide Muna shared her story. She left school at 13, became the child bride of a man who was seven years older, and shortly thereafter gave birth to a daughter. When she was 15, she begged her mother to allow her to return home because of her husband’s abuse. Feeling lucky that her mother allowed her to return, she was unprepared when a few months later her husband took her daughter away from her. It was ten years before she would see her daughter again.

Three Sister's guide Muna (in red) and my assistant guide Tukashi leading our team of three women on the Annapurna trail. 

Three Sister's guide Muna (in red) and my assistant guide Tukashi leading our team of three women on the Annapurna trail. 

She describes the years between the loss of her child and finding work as a guide as extremely difficult. She worked in a rock quarry for a number of years, crushing larger rocks into small pieces for construction with her bare hands. It was grueling manual labor. Eventually someone told her about a training program for young women to become trekking guides. Trekking is a lucrative occupation in Nepal, but the majority of guides are men.

Muna often wondered why so many foreigners wanted to climb mountains prior to becoming a guide but it is clear that hiking through the mountains brings her great joy. Through Three Sisters Adventure Trekking, Muna went through 18 months of trekking guide training and now leads treks monthly in Nepal. Three Sister’s provided Muna with an opportunity that simply wouldn’t have been available.

Three Sisters was found by Lucky, Dicky, and Nicky Chhetri, Nepali sisters and pioneers in the field of female trekking guides. In 1993, they were running a restaurant and a lodge in Pokhara, where they met women from all over the world. Many of their clients complained of negative experiences with their male guides. So the sisters decided to do something about it.

It turns out that their work has helped both women trekkers and Nepali women. In 1994, they created a training program to teach local women the necessary skills for trekking and guiding. Since then, close to 2,000 women from all over Nepal have completed the training. Many have become full-time guides or assistant guides.

Over my short three-day trek, our guide and assistant guides – Muna , Punam, and Tukashi – were stopped multiple times by women in the rural areas in which we hiked. It was clear the women respected what they were doing and wanted to get more information on how they could get involved. I felt like we were with rock stars in the countryside of Nepal. Women young and old would excitedly greet our guides and ask them where we were heading. It was obvious that these women were leading the charge of change in their communities.

Our assistant guide Punam showing us how to handle heat on the trail. 

Our assistant guide Punam showing us how to handle heat on the trail. 

This experience showed me that one of the best things we can do to help Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake a year ago is to put our dollars into tourism so that its people can earn a living and rebuild their lives. I was so touched by the stories our guides shared with us along our journey, and I share the enthusiasm of the women that we met along the trail. The way to help the woman of Nepal is provide them opportunity and hope. If you'd like to help visit Three Sister Adventure Trekking's website and sign up for a trek or make a donation to their nonprofit, Empowering Women of Nepal and help women in Nepal become self-supportive and independent.