Relief Drive To Takukot
On 7th May, 12 days after the earthquake, Soma Mahesan and Michelle Bliss with two boys from The Garden, Prakash and Binod, representing Sansar Nepal, accompanied the relief drive organised by the Rotary Club of Pokhara and the Nepal Bharat (India) Friendship Association, to the village of Takukot in the Gorkha district. Our NGO has donated 80,000 rupees (USD 800) towards the relief supplies worth a total of USD 4,450, for the remote villages of Mikot and Takukot in the Gorkha district, very close to the epicentre of the earthquake. The Garden Family had previously collated 300 “bucket packs” to deliver to the most needy families amongst the 75 households affected, including items requested by the head of the Village Development Committee (VDC). In addition, several hundred extra blankets were also packed for those sleeping in the open. Here is Michelle’s account:
We left Pokhara at 6.30am, and drove in convoy with our truck load of supplies accompanied by our friends Madan from Vardan Resort, Gyanendra from Pokhara Rotary Club, and two other organisers. It took us five hours to reach Gorkha Bazaar, which has become a hub of relief operations in the district, and from there a further four hours to cover 38kms along potholed, rock-strewn, dirt tracks to reach Takukot. It became increasingly clear to us why this village and others like it have not yet been reached by the large aid trucks.
As we approached the village, the scenes of destruction worsened, and we passed makeshift shelters constructed amongst the rubble of homes accommodating several families. There is a country-wide shortage of both tents and tarpaulins, which are obviously in great demand, and the few that had been delivered here were clearly inadequate. Groups of dazed villagers huddled together amidst the wreckage, streams of people including the vey old and very young laboured up the dirt track, bent almost double under sacks of rice which they had collected from donation points and were lugging back to their shelters. We realised what a struggle life must be at the best of times in these remote communities, and under such circumstances as these, it is unimaginable for us how life can even continue.
The villages of Takukot and its neighbour Mikot were the worst we had seen. Almost every single house was either totally destroyed or uninhabitable. The villagers were waiting for us, young and old, in what remained of their village square. The full extent of the human suffering hit me at this point and I wept with and for them. There was no grabbing, no demanding, no jostling. Each family representative called forward from the list received their package with gratitude and dignity. My heart went out to every one of them, totally humbled by the magnitude of their loss and their courage and solidarity in the face of it.
Using my few words of Nepali and our boys as interpreters, I spoke to the women and children. They were grateful that no one had died, but there had been injuries, and many had lost livestock as well as their homes and possessions. We laughed and cried together as I photographed them and told them how beautiful they were, which they truly were, even in their suffering. I showed them photographs of my daughters and grandson and we shared our common humanity.
Meanwhile the distribution continued, with Soma, our boys and the rest of our group handing out packages. Later we walked up to the crest of the hill to see the village school and the temple, both damaged but miraculously still standing. In the valley beyond we saw countless other villages in rubble. What a task!
On our way down, one elderly woman stooped beneath her aid package stopped us and started to cry. I hugged her and was told through Madan that she had no husband, her son had died several years ago and now she had lost everything. She felt completely alone in the world, whereas all the other members of her village still had each other. We offered to bring her with us, and give her a temporary home at The Garden, until her house was rebuilt. She said she would come later.
There were hugs, high fives, handshakes and waves as we left the village. Four bone-shaking hours later we were back in Gorkha, and were happy to rest for a while and eat our dal bhat in the comfort of a local hotel restaurant with other aid workers. At midnight we arrived back in Pokhara, 18 hours later. As I collapsed exhausted in my comfortable bed with a solid roof over my head, a full stomach and the prospect of a hot shower and clean clothes the next morning, my thoughts were with the villagers of Takukot and Mikot and the thousands like them, who tonight had none of these.