Don Messerschmidt (ex-Peace Corps Nepal-2, 1963-65) is putting together a volunteer opportunity to help with the ongoing work of rebuilding schools by the Gorkha Foundation, at the epicenter of the April 25 earthquake (EQ).
The Gorkha Foundation (GF) spent May in the Relief Mode (distributing food, shelter, medical supplies, and other) and since June has been pursuing the Recovery Mode. For that, it has chosen to rebuild village schools. (Don was there in June/July.)
It is estimated that 80% of all school buildings in the district were destroyed in the EQ, and that many of the remaining 20% were so badly damaged as to require serious renovation. Altogether some 3,000 classrooms were wrecked, and while the GF won’t rebuild all of them, there’s a list of over a dozen at which to begin. The first one, built over the monsoon, is nearing completion. Rebuilding others will begin in early October, before the Dasain and Tihar Holidays.
During the 1st two weeks of October, an all-volunteer based trip is being planned to Gorkha District to help with the construction of an Upper Secondary School (Classes 1 to 12) in a community seriously damaged by the EQ.
The Gorkha Foundation (GF) is an volunteer-based 501(C)3 non-profit, registered both in the USA and in Nepal and Gorkha District. Thus, it qualifies as both an international non-governmental organization (INGO) and as a local NGO (LNGO). It’s presence in Gorkha District gives it local credibility, where it has operated since 2005. The GF is totally non-profit, with no overhead. All money from donations goes directly into its activities on the ground — both RELIEF (in the first month after the earthquake) and now RECOVERY (well intothe foreseeable future…, recovery will take a long time). You can read about the Foundation at http://gorkhafoundation.org and at http://on.fb.me/1M7Tf7x. Don is on the GF Board of Advisers.
The plan is to arrive in Nepal by September 30, then spend the next two weeks mostly in a village in Gorkha. The construction is overseen by a qualified Nepali engineer. Volunteers have several options to help — working on construction, or teaching a class (English, for example) or helping with computer literacy, or teaching and refereeing school sports activities. (Be creative and consider what you can do to help.) Besides overall organization and management of the trip, Don will also be documenting and writing stories to publish, to keep news and information about the earthquake, its aftermath (including many aftershocks), and recovery activities in the news.
Along the way, group members will also briefly tour each of three significant historical sites in Gorkha: Manakamana Temple (one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in all Nepal), Gorakhnath temple and old palace in Gorkha Bazar, and LigLig Kot (an ancient fortress dating to Drabya Shah dating to 1559 AD, two centuries before Prithvi Narayan Shah unified the country). We will also visit Amp Pipal Community Hospital (near LigLig Kot), which is partially supported by the Gorkha Foundation. The Foundation’s other work, begun long before the earthquake, includes a popular micro-credit program for poor women, small agriculture and livestock projects, and significant aid to village schools, to literacy, and to assuring education for girls and the poor and underprivileged.
The October trip is all-voluntary, and Don is working with an agent in Kathmandu to set the itinerary and come up with an overall cost. Every attempt is being made to keep the cost low. This is not a tourist trip; rather, it is a working trip with short side tours to see the cultural-historical side of Gorkha District. After the work in Gorkha, the group will also visit Pokhara briefly for R&R, before returning to Kathmandu on mid-October.
Being a former Peace Corps Volunteer or speaking Nepali are not pre-requisites to joining the trip. Anyone is welcome to inquire. It will not be a strenuous trip; it’s not for trekking. Most of the time in Gorkha will be spent no higher than 5,500-6,000 feet, with a little walking each day to/from the school and guesthouse.
If you are interested, contact Don by email at email@example.com, or by phone at 360.256.8596 for more information. If you can’t join us but want to help, you can donate to help defray the cost of the trip, or contribute directly to the Gorkha Foundation in support of its program.