In November Asim and I travelled to the Langtang district of Nepal near the Tibet / China border. We visited the village of Goljung which sits at 1,967m above sea level, high in the Himalayas. Before the earthquake in April 2015, our partner organisation in Nepal placed volunteers in this village and many of the children currently living at the Happy Homes come from Langtang and were directly affected by the earthquake.
The villagers are Tamang people and have their own dialect rather than speaking Nepali. Most Tamangs are farmers and due to the lack of irrigation at higher altitudes, their crops are often limited to corn, millet, wheat, barley, and potatoes. They often supplement their farming income with manual labour. Due to the discrimination experienced by the Tamang people in the past, they have remained on the whole poorly educated, and the majority have been limited to working as farmers, mountain trekking, portering, and driving in Kathmandu.
Tamangs were amongst the hardest hit by the 2015 earthquake. The earthquake killed nearly 9,000 people, with one third of all deaths being Tamang people, and roughly two thirds of the 600,000 structures completely destroyed were in Tamang dominant areas.
Officials in Nepal have stated that rebuilding costs will exceed $10 billion and will take years to complete. For the individual households that qualified for government subsidies, three separate payments totalling $3,000 were distributed, depending on the stage of construction. Goljung is a 10 hour bus journey from Kathmandu on poor roads. The mountain location increases the cost of building materials and labour and as can be seen in the picture above left, the government subsidies are nowhere near enough to rebuild a home.
We visited Singi and his family whose 3 storey home was completely destroyed by the earthquake. Singi teaches at the local school and is a respected member of the village community. Prior to the earthquake Singi and his family hosted volunteers who would live at his home and teach English at the local school and to the village children. Unfortunately, since the earthquake, hosting volunteers has not been possible. We were treated extremely well during our visit and the hospitality shown by the villagers was truly humbling. I’d like to think that we can do something in the near future to help them.