In 2015, I was closing a chapter of my life in the Philippines and trying to decide what’s next. I’d recently immersed myself in yoga and started focusing on my spiritual growth, and so had decided to go to India to do my yoga teacher training. The course was booked and all I had to do was figure out where I wanted to spend two months while ‘waiting’ for the start date.
I spent a month in Manila and then flew off to Nepal, as I’d always dreamed of visiting Kathmandu. When I was young, I fell in love with the name and would always have images of explorers traversing this mystical place in my head. I was caught up by the romance of it all. Timing-wise, it felt right as I made my way over shortly after the 2015 earthquake and I wanted to see what I could do to help.
After a short stay in Kathmandu with a local family and a trip to Pokhara, I found my way to Thamel. Before I left, I did some research and many places advised that ‘volunteers with little or no skills’ should not flock to Nepal to help as they might be more of a hindrance and use up precious resources. I went in spite of this, and discovered what I felt was magic.
I arrived a couple of months after the quake hoping to do some kind of good. The hostel where I stayed was packed with volunteers from all over the world. They were organised and arranged into groups to assist local Nepali families recover from the quake.
Along with a group of people, I found myself on a local bus carrying pitch forks and shovels, travelling into the hills towards the home of Genesh. Genesh owned a small stall/shop down the road from the hostel that sold candy and chips, steaming tea and some other sundry supplies.
Once off the bus, we hiked through a village and some rice paddies before making our way up the hill where his home used to stand. All that was left were a few partial walls of the outbuildings and a land full of rubble. When the earthquake hit they ran from their home only to return to a pile of rocks.
Along with 15 other people, I set off to work digging dirt and moving rocks using the one glove we each got, sharing two pitch forks and a shovel, and improvising with sticks to dig.
Around midday, we took a break and shared an amazing meal of dal bhat at someone’s home in the village. After lunch, we went around the corner to have some spiced Nepali milk tea, our arms tired from moving heavy stuff.
Then, it was back to work, clearing the rest of the space until we found the crumbling outside walls of the house buried in the rubble. Before we knew it, we were done.
All things come around full circle. The earthquake destroyed a home, leaving in its place a pile of rubble. We destroyed that pile of rubble, leaving in its place stones that can be used again, and most importantly, the space for a home to be built.
Since that day, every time I walked past Genesh’s shop, he spares some time to speak to me and invite me in for some Nepali milk tea. Needless to say, it was time well-spent, knowing I’d made a positive difference, even if just a small one.
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