There were a few reasons to come back to Baluwapati village now. Firstly Monisa had been missing school over January and I was worried about how things were. Secondly I wanted to make sure that the video footage from last year’s film shoot with Sushil was going to be edited and other loose ends were going to be tied up so I could launch. ‘Building Budland’s’ fundraising needed to start as soon as possible in order to reach our target to build during 2017.
It felt great to be back! It was 21st January and I arrived wearing a pair of shorts. I had never felt Nepal’s big chill before, and it was freezing. I was more concerned than last time however, as was Ujwal (my old friend from the work after the earthquakes, and loyal partner on this project). The concern was mostly due to Ram and Monisa’s unexplained absence from school and the village. It was strange that this time nobody in the village knew for sure where they had gone. My initial reaction was to think that maybe they were at Ram’s sister’s house in Sindopalchuck, another area devastated by the earthquakes in 2015, also struggling to recover.
Ram had expressed he had wanted to marry again and have a solid family life, and that he had met a woman in Sindopalchuck. This came as a surprise to me after such recent hard times, but he had looked much better the last time I saw him. I was thinking to jump on a motorbike and find the village whilst on a road trip to see my friends and check they are OK. Ram and I have previously expressed the desire to take a road trip together to meet this mysterious woman, but sadly it has not yet been possible. Ram meanwhile had arrived back in the village whilst I was on the plane to Nepal, and so my worries were eased! He had moved away briefly for work to support his family, and couldn’t manage his worries for his daughter being alone (it turned out that it was his mother who had gone to visit his sister in Sindopalchuck).
It had not been an easy trip for either of them, especially in the coldest months Nepal has to offer, with Ram being uneducated and having to work for long hours for only 600 rupees ( 6 USD) a day, I was worried where he would stay, wherever he went, but I respected him for being the man of his family and doing what it takes to resolve his situation. Ram is such an honest man with dignity and doesn’t like asking for help. When I saw them it was clear they had not had the easiest time, and I was still concerned, not wanting them to fall into the same situation again.
Ramesh, Pārbati, Ujwal and I all reminded Ram that we can always help make sure Monisa is comfortable and safe in the village if he has to go for work, camping out, battling the harsh conditions of winter in Nepal. We also reinforced to Ram that he wasn’t alone, that we are all in this world together, to support our friends as much as we can, and to help constructively support him through the tough times as a single father. What are we, after all, after a growing history of time and hardships and problem solving together, if our relationships are not cemented in strong friendship? No man is an island, as they say. Finally, after a long conversation, it was time for a small celebration; we were all back together again, after all!
It wasn’t long before I was in the Editing Studio with Shushil Baba Chhetri; a future legend in the making; editing the videos you can see on the website. It was an honour to be next to a professional working in an editing suite making the difficult decisions on the footage and music. I was mainly just there for him to consult on some of those decisions. He was well organised and managing to fit this project into his very busy schedule, as it was coming together I felt relieved that we were almost ready to launch after months of learning and hard work building a website.
I was also relieved that an old friend of mine; Daniel, who I met volunteering in Kolkata, was still in contact with me and agreed to help edit and perfect the writing on the website, its already been such a long road and the launch of the fundraising is really just the beginning!
Back in Baluwapati I have been looking over the ground plan on site, looking at the land we have and how we can best serve it, and the school, getting ready for the design and costing phase of the project, even learning more about the Eco-friendly earthbricks and how we can make them (while visiting a different building project nearby with some local building tradesmen I met last year in Nepal). These bricks seem to be gaining some great recognition here in Nepal, and hopefully with machines to use on our project free of charge, they seem like a natural and exciting building medium to be using during construction.
Whilst in the village I have been talking to the school about setting up a volunteer program with Ramesh as well. Ramesh enjoys being a part of the conversation and has always been passionate to give service to his community. Eventually we will need volunteers for the construction, but it made sense to begin helping improve the lesson quality and spoken English straight away. Speaking English really does optimise a rural Nepali child’s potential in a developing nation largely dependent on tourism. Ramesh can communicate well and can also host in his house, but we are looking into making small comfortable bamboo bungalows for the volunteers to stay in as well, and have already started collecting and buying materials.
While tying up loose ends in the capital city of Kathmandu I bumped into a very passionate young German traveller, Yannick. He was very interested in this project from the start of our first conversation, and it turns out he is indeed a man of his word. Yannick put the first 1000 rupee (10 USD) note in our new donation box at HostelOne96 and said he would love to go to the village to see the situation. He came back even more passionate than when he went, deciding that he would like to be our first volunteer in the school in a teaching role, and hopefully go on to do some fundraising afterwards. As soon as we can we will update you with both Yannick and Ramesh’s progress in Baluwapati.
With every passing day I become more nervous of launching such a large fundraiser, but the excitement, passion and belief in this project; along with the support and encouragement I have received so far, all drive me forward and calm down those nerves. Everything is coming together, and I am feeling a lot of positive energy. It’s a slow start, but people are already interested, and we welcome you to join with us on this unique journey.