The story of Jay Nepal
Jay Nepal, which means “Victory Nepal”, is a motley arrangement of Nepalis and foreign backpackers who have banded together to help rebuild, or more correctly, in the first instance anyway, demolish Nepal.
Nepal’s April 2015 earthquake not only destroyed many buildings, not to mention lives lost, but it severely compromised the many, if not most, of the structures that were left standing. And so Jay Nepal was born. Their mission started out as a result of one man’s observation that these compromised buildings, these structures that were not safe, with cracks down the sides, with foundations crumbling, leaning at odd angles, created a further threat to the people who live in them. Further than that, by logical progression of thought, it was assumed that all the while these unsafe buildings continue to stand as they are, more people could die merely by being in the vicinity.
So, in the absence of any significant government assistance, and I use the word government and the word assistance in the same sentence with a generosity mustered from a most compliant place, Jay Nepal started its work. On the first day of my visit there they took me to a place called Panga, in the region of Kirtipur, between Patan, where I was staying, and Kathmandu. We congregated at the house of Jay Nepal’s founder, were met by backpackers from afar as New Zealand, Italy, the United States, and England and set off in a bus where they proceeded to demolish buildings they deemed unsafe for human habitation, unsafe even to be around.
The locals among them, the Nepalis, seemed on a mission to make a statement about where they saw their country, one of hope and defiance in the face of events that had seemingly overtaken them. Hence the name, shouted at regular intervals between swings of the pick axe and crash to the ground of bricks from two or three stories up. The backpackers, on the other hand, some of whom had been in Nepal when the quake struck, others of whom were there beforehand and had come back, and yet others, who just decided to come because either they had lost their job and perished the thought of sending in job applications and sitting through job interviews, or had compared the futility of their current state with the state of the people they were now sharing their lives with, and decided to get to Nepal and do what they could. The excuberance of youth.
The work is dangerous, precautions must be taken, hard hats (although more aesthetic accompaniment than safety device), gloves for the blisters, and the obligatory face mask for the inevitable dust. The locals, the householders, were grateful. They live with the constant fear that their house will collapse, killing them. But they had have no where else to go, there is no help other than from neighbours, who are ill equipped, and Jay Nepal.
This is how it is in Nepal, the people are left to themselves and their indomitable spirit, encapsulated by the members of Jay Nepal, in their monikered t-shirts and their chants of victory. Astonishing it is to see them, to listen to them, the backpackers with no direct connexion, but with an unbridled passion to make some difference in other peoples lives.
And since that day they’ve moved on from merely demolishing to building and connecting – pipes for water supplies, dental clinics, schools. Passionate people this Jay Nepal mob.
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It should be pointed out, before the story of Giftland, Lokta paper and the generosity of my Nepali hosts is mentioned, that some things are done differently in Nepal. We in the West could learn a thing or two from them.
My final day of visiting people affected by the April 25th earthquake made for an uneasy embrace of what it means to be denied a Western middle class upbringing. I had one, these delightful children have an upbringing only in the sense that they are not living on the street.
The village of Barabesie, in the region of Sindapowlchuk, north east of the capital Kathmandu, was at the epicentre of the April 2015 earthquake. The village was flattened, almost destroyed. It’s people are resilient, they are rebuilding.
Kailash is an artist. When you are introduced to him he will say “hello, my name is Kailash, I am an artist.” You are left in no doubt. An artist he most certainly is, in demeanour, in the passion with which he talks about teaching others, creating works that speak to people and about letting the world know that Art can help change it.
A medieval village popular with tourists flattened by the April 2015 earthquake.
The first thing that springs to mind when one sees devastation like this is how hopeless the task of rebuilding appears to be. It’s not just the homes and the temples, it’s the lives, particularly in light of the knowledge that there is no one to help, no insurance and a mere token of government assistance. It’s left to those around you, your neighbours, your relatives, your village folk. In other words, your community.