NEPAL – Volunteering in Melamchi part 4 – The Mud Site

You got mud on your face…and everywhere else…

(Written by Steph)

Y’know Glastonbury, that year when it pissed it down so hard that people’s tents got swept away in a river of mud? Well, I was there that year, and still it had nothing on this site. I’ve never seen so much mud in all my life. Now, if there had only been mud, not a problemo. Get the shovel out, fill the wheelbarrow, transport the mud to new destination, and voila, site cleared. This mud, however, had been used between massive stones as walls of the house that once stood there. Now these walls stood only a couple of metres high, and the stacks of mud were full of enormous, heavy stones.

A) We would have to pic-axe the remaining wall,  salvaging as many stones as possible and relocating them, for the family to reuse.

B)We would then have to dig down to the foundations, removing stones and mud and then relevel the surface.

The Mud Site - before. We had to dig down about half a metre below ground level, retrieve any rocks, and then fill in the hole
The Mud Site - after we had levelled the ground and completed the site

We had to try and find any belongings of the family that we could – they had lost literally everything in the earthquake, including a family member. The house owner, Surita, lost her sister, who had lived next door. Surita had since taken on her two nieces and nephew – their father had found his wife’s death so traumatic that he had left and had scarcely returned home.
As is often the case in Nepal, finding out who is actually related to another by blood is complicated, and usually involves several conversations, several miscommunications, and a whole lot of sign language. When you use the terms “sister” and “brother” to refer to your friends, things are bound to get complicated.  Still, Surita’s sons, Anees and Uwer, were around, and chatty, and even joining in where they could, so much so that we got Anees his own pair of gloves and safety glasses in the end…

Anis with a newborn baby goat. On his back you can see his safety glasses he was so proud of.
The lovely Surita, bringer of tea and smiles

But there was a girl of 11 there, subdued and removed from the hub as we set about our work. I was curious as to who she was and what she was about. Her name was Anisa, and it turned out, she was one of the daughters of Surita’s sister that had died. Jeez, I thought. No wonder she was so quiet. The earthquake had happened 5 months ago, and her life would never be the same again. Here we were, coming to remind her of the event that took her mother’s life. We could clear the houses, and maybe All Hands would even rebuild there when they started the 50 Homes project in Melamchi the following month, but here was something we couldn’t fix, and it was a big reality check.

I made it my business to try and speak to her everyday. To try and pay her some attention, in the small hope of diverting the negative with some positive. But what did I know? I’m not a psychologist, nor was I more than a stranger to her. If I’m caring, I’m 10 times more naive. Still, I reassured myself with the knowledge that things could have been a lot worse for Anisa – so many children in similar situations are said to have been victims of child trafficking, taken by opportunists that promise them a good life, and then sell them into slavery or the sex trade. It’s a massive problem here. At least Anisa had someone to take her under their wing, and her auntie Surita was one of the nicest, sweetest ladies I’ve ever met. She was constantly around, with her smiles, her tea, and her gratitude, and I think we all fell in love with her and her family just a little bit.

From left to right - me, Anisa, her best friend Deepa, and cousin Anees, our little helper

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