Nuns help rebuild quake-hit Nepal houses

Kathmandu, Oct 5 (IANS) After surviving the devastating quake in Nepal in April and the aftershocks, nuns from an ancient Tibetan order are now helping to rehabilitate the affected villagers.

By rebuilding their homes, the 300 kung fu nuns from the Druk Amitabha Mountain nunnery, established by the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order based in the Himalayas, are helping the people of nine villages.

Nirmaya Tamang of Kallabari village, located close to the monastery, about half an hour drive into the hills overlooking Kathmandu, is one of those whose new home is coming up.

“These nuns helped us a lot by rebuilding my home,” Nirmaya told this IANS correspondent.

Standing close on a vast pile of stones of her destroyed house in the Nagarjun municipality in Kathmandu district, she said the nuns had earlier provided temporary hutments and medical aid.

“Now they are financially supporting us to reconstruct the houses. They are even providing technical knowhow to make the new houses earthquake resistant,” she added.

With tears in her eyes, Nirmaya, whose farm is just less than half a hectare, said she lost her husband and daughter in the deadly 7.9-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25, killing more than 8,800 people. There have been several aftershocks since then.

The Gyalwang Drukpa’s international foundation, ‘Live to Love’, announced the construction of 201 earthquake-resistant homes.

“All the homes are in different stages of construction in nine adopted villages. We are building them through community participation,” said Jigme Rigzin, housing project manager of the ‘Live to Love’ foundation.

She said a prefabricated community hall was also constructed in Kallabari village, which will be used for a community school that was also damaged in the quake.

“This was my home,” said short-statured Tulki Tamang.

Limping slightly, she looks considerably older than her 73 years. “This was the house,” she said in feeble voice, pointing to the demolished structure.

She said they were living comfortably before the quake.

“My house was totally damaged and I lost everything. We are currently staying in this temporary hutment. Now that the monsoon is over, we will soon move to this upcoming house,” added Tulki, who was busy in sifting the harvested maize corns in the courtyard.

Maroon-robed nun Rigzin, revered for her rehabilitation work, said most quake-hit families were busy in agricultural activities till July. Then the monsoon delayed the rebuilding of the structures.

“Now we are hoping to provide houses to all the families before the onset of winter.”

She said that in Kallabari village alone 40 houses were partially or fully damaged.

Farm labourer Singhdhwoj Tamang has shifted to the new house.

“Since the quake, we had been staying in a temporary structure. Now we got the new house that was raised by utilising available material like corrugated roofs and wood retrieved from the destroyed property,” Tamang said.

In the post-earthquake rehabilitation by ‘Live to Love’, Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon and actress Michelle Yeoh, famous for her roles in Oscar-winning “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, visited villages adopted by the international charity.

They stayed with the kung fu nuns, who work for ‘Live to Love’, by doing community outreach, offering medical services and acting as role models of women empowerment.

The nuns have also been trained in driving, plumbing and electrical work, and can also work with computers and cameras.

The Druk Amitabha Mountain nunnery, which houses the youngest nun of about nine years and the oldest about 60 years old, was also damaged in the earthquake. The nuns sleep and meditate in the tents.

Sixty percent of Nepal’s people are engaged in agriculture.

The World Bank says 47 percent of Nepalese farmers have less than half a hectare (or 5,000 square metres) of land.

The Nepalese government has provided Rs.15,000 cash as an emergency relief to help the quake-hit families to build temporary shelters.

It has announced Rs.200,000 each to the families rendered homeless along with Rs.15,000 emergency cash relief for building temporary shelters.

According to the Nepal Risk Disaster Reduction portal, 602,257 private houses were fully damaged in the Himalayan state, while partially damaged houses totalled 285,099.

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