CHARIS volunteers removing the supporting beam of the roof from a house. Photo: Sharon Low

By Caroline Wee and Liana Gurung

When three powerful earthquakes struck Nepal in the span of two months in 2015, nearly 9,000 people were killed and more than 800,000 families were left homeless near the epicentre of Gorkha and across the Kathmandu Valley.

CHARIS responded by providing $100,000 in relief supplies and cash donations to Caritas Nepal to support their reconstruction and recovery efforts, and provided a further $410,000 to support home rebuilding in Balthali, a remote village 1.5 km above sea level and situated 30 km from Kathmandu.

The donations provided by CHARIS have funded the rebuilding of more than 70 houses to date.

On Sept 10, a mission team of 16 volunteers journeyed to Balthali to help with the rebuilding of four homes as part of the Caritas Nepal rebuilding programme. The Singaporean volunteers, together with the Balthali village district team members of Caritas Nepal, were split into three groups for the duration of the mission. Groups one and two were assigned the demolition of two earthquake-destroyed houses while the third group transferred construction materials to facilitate the rebuilding of another house.

Using basic tools and equipment such as shovels, crowbars and picks, the groups first cleared the debris within the houses and later dismantled the earthquake-damaged houses in stages to optimise the recycling of old building materials.

On their last morning of work the team planned a small celebration at a local primary school, held coincidentally a day after Children’s Day in Nepal. The Singapore volunteers performed a dance routine they had been practising every night.

More than 80 school children, teachers and village elders attended, an affirmation of their appreciation of the volunteers’ contribution to the community.

On the final morning in Bathali, the team was given a traditional Nepalese blessing by Caritas Nepal staff Dilip Karki.

Reflecting on the trip, first time mission volunteer Kayne Kwa said, “Even though it was hard work, we bonded with the local people.”

Mission leader Yao Shih Chieh was encouraged by the fact that all volunteers, including first-timers, had given their all. “I see a lot of grit and resilience in the [Nepalese] community, to make the best of the situation, I felt that we have given them a sense of hope that they are not forgotten,” he said.

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