When Rabindra first met the community in 2018, their village was mostly rubble and ruin, the devastation they lived in following the 2016 earthquake. After the incredible Thamdanda Water Supply and Sanitation Project with 8kms of pipeline installation, water tanks, hose taps, an abundance of training and a lot of hard work, we were returning to the community for an official closing ceremony, three years after the actual end of the project. I was so excited to meet those who I’d only ever met in photos and witness the success and sustainability of the project.

We arrived and it was all a whirlwind. I was honoured to be asked to bless the newly constructed vegetable sales centre building that HLF had just built for the Komhendo Womens Group, with incense and coconut smashing as per tradition.  It was fantastic to see Hira and other members of the Rotary Club of Kavre-Banepa. Without them there wouldn’t have been a project so I can’t thank them enough for their support. 

After blessing the building, we headed up to one of the villages, another offroad adventure in Nepal! I was thinking of the people having to walk this each day and there was nothing to complain about driving up in a jeep.

Upon arrival we blessed the building that HLF had constructed during the project, this building being the hub of the community and the Women’s Group. Being there after seeing photos of all the training that took place over the years was another surreal moment. These buildings are integral in rural Nepal, offering shelter, storage, and a place to gather.  Following this, we headed up to the main village for the official ceremony – Nepali’s love a good festival and celebration, and this was a good one!

I find it difficult to describe the emotions, after all these years, of seeing the destruction, and the reconstruction of the village from a distance through a screen. Seeing all the faces I’d either met in person on our last visit or through photos, the young men learning plumbing pipework installation, the champions of the project who ensured its viability, and the women who’d been involved since the very first HLF visit. Being able to walk through the lanes, between the houses, that were once full of rubble, now rebuilt and full of life, seeing the animals, the crops, the hose taps and the life that is now there because of this project.

A village re-born

Many people had the opportunity to talk during the closing ceremony and I listened to them describe going to local Government, then the national Kathmandu Government, begging for help. Before us, no-one did. They lost hope that anyone would be able to help them recover the life they once had. People had moved away from the community to live and work in cities and other areas. But with the power of Rotary International, the power of community from around the globe coming together to support this project and the wealth of knowledge and caring of Padam, Rabindra, Prabin and many others, has brought this village back to life. Youth are now returning with skills they can monetise and everyone is committed to creating lives there together again.

Padam told me later about the emcee for the event. When he first met her, she was very shy and didn’t say much, now she was in front of everyone, confident and proud of what she and her community had achieved. The hugs I received that day, those moments will stay with me forever.

Although this was the ‘closing ceremony’ for the project, HLF continues to work with this community through our Women Empowerment Programme, and I can’t wait to visit them again in future.

This project even made the local radio throughout the Kavre district (pop circa 381,000). Many others ask if it’s possible to do a project like this with them. I can’t underestimate the extreme poverty Nepal people live in and how a project like this makes such a tangible and sustainable difference to their lives. The transformation is so real, exciting, and remarkable and everyone involved should be so proud of such a successful project.

An unforgettable face

I don’t think I will ever forget meeting this beautiful elder for the first time. She, along with others, was in the very first photo we have of these women taken after a literacy class Rabindra taught back in 2018.  When Padam asked her what the biggest change in her life is since the project, she described not having to wake at 1am to trek for 6-12 hours a day just to get water. Now, she can walk outside of her home to easily accessible, clean, fresh water.

I had the pleasure of visiting her garlic patch and the gorgeous big bulbs she’s grown. Her skills and determination now enable her to support the local monastery rebuild – paying it forward with grace.

I was grateful for the time we did have together, but I wish I had more time to sit and chat with these women, listen to more of their stories and hear first-hand how the project has continued to support them.