Report on Blanket Distribution
in Nepal (Click for PDF with Photos)
By Rev. Jan L. Beaderstadt
dhansar pakha shibir, nepal – It was a steep climb up the hill to the place where the survivors of the April 25th and May 12th earthquake have called their home for the last six months. As I crested the hill, I looked down in amazement at acres of temporary shelters that these people are calling home.
Here just outside of Dhading Besi in Dhading District of Nepal, these people are in many ways refugees. The first earthquake of April 25th (7.9 on the Richter scale) wiped out much of the villages of Tenchet and Chapang. The second earthquake of May 12th (7.4 on the Richter scale) released a tremendous landslide that literally wiped out all traces of the village, its farms and even their terraced farmland. What these people have had for centuries was lost in a matter of minutes.
The large tent with the blue top is their makeshift church, which serves as the center of this makeshift village near Dhading Besi in Nepal.
As I stood there on that hillside looking down at this temporary village, all I could think of was the Exodus story. Like the children of Israel who lived in huts in the desert for 40 years, so these shacks stretched forth. Off to the one side was their church.
A welcome sign announces the name of this temporary village, created because of twin devastating earthquakes earlier this year. The people here are from two villages that were not only hit by the earthquakes, but also wiped out the landslide that was triggered by the May 12th earthquake.
Most of the people of Tenchet are Christian, and one of the first structures they erected was a makeshift church. What little money they had they pooled to buy plastic tarpd and bamboo to hold up the roof to protect them from the monsoon rains that were coming soon following the May 12th earthquake.
The structure is open sided, and easily seats the congregation that numbered around 350 people at their worship service of November 28th. They didn’t know I was coming to distribute the blankets; these people were gathered here on their own praising God in such incredible display of joy.
Their church (I kept thinking of the tabernacle in the desert) was the most prominent feature of this temporary village. It is the center point for their faith and hope that is giving them the courage to face tomorrow.
They are squatting on private land and the landholder is pushing them to leave. They have no place to go. Their villages were not only totally destroyed, but for most of them there is no place to rebuild. Some are trying to build near their old homes in the jungle, but most don’t even have that option.
Pastor Silas Tamang with his youngest son in Dhading Besi. He is head of HIMS-Nepal, a local NGO that has worked to help the people of the mountains in Dhading District. His village of Tenchet was totally destroyed by the earthquake.
Pastor Silas Tamang of HIMS-Nepal, a local NGO who is from Tenchet and lost his family home, has been a major encourager for the people. Through his Christian NGO, he has found tin and tarps along with bamboo to build temporary homes. One NGO donated a device to provide the people with a water purifier. The village still lacks in proper sanitation and the structures are only temporary at best.
Pastor Silas had asked Renaissance Outreach Ministries to provide good, heavy, wool blankets for the people. There had been some blankets distributed earlier this summer, but they were lightweight, summer weight blankets, which are of little value with the cold weather that is starting to descend upon the people of the mountains.
Renaissance was able to find good, warm blankets that are 50% wool. They are large in size and weigh 2 ½ kg (5.5 pounds). These are the same quality as used by the military in Nepal.
Renaissance was able to find them through some contacts with other NGOs who had some extras that they were willing to sell. The original price of blankets were $37, but we were able to reduce the cost to just $20 each. These blankets will last a long time and will help to keep the people warm.
Rev. Silas and I arrived in time for worship (worship in Nepal is on Saturdays because this is the national day off). The makeshift church was already at 300 people and growing in attendance as more and more arrived.
Nepali worship is lively with a praise group leading the singing. They had a couple of guitars along with some drums and tambourines to accompany the music
I was asked to preach and spoke to the congregation on Philippians 2:15: “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky”.
When you first lay eyes on this makeshift village, you are first struck by the poverty. The temporary shacks are not all that weather proof. Built on bare ground, the people have trenched to provide channels for the water to run off and away from their homes. But some of the homes have open sides or not much to block the winter winds which are now arriving.
Temperatures are now getting cold at tonight. While Dhading Besi is not as cold as higher up in the mountains, mornings will still drop to around freezing in the dead of winter while the dampness of the ground will penetrate where they are sleeping on the ground.
Praise team leads the worship service.
The second thing that you quickly discover is that these are a people filled with joy. They are grateful to be alive, to have their families as well as their faith in Christ.
Most of the people have experienced loss of loved ones in the earthquake. The landslides as well as the first earthquake were especially devastating. But when I met with the people, they displayed a resilience that was most encouraging. They were survivors, and were not into feeling sorry for themselves.
Pastor Jan giving blanket to one of the widows in the makeshift village.
We were painfully short of blankets to distribute. Giving has been slow on this project, and Renaissance is now at around the 50% mark toward our goal of 159 blankets.
While their needs are great, the biggest need right now is blankets and mattresses. I have located some more blankets in Kathmandu, which is not an easy thing these days as India has closed the border in their objection to the Nepal Constitution. India’s problem with the constitution appears to be that Nepal didn’t cave into their requests for changes. So now there are shortages of goods as the country is being punished for not being the vassal state of India.
The other item they are in need of is mattresses, which can be made locally. The mattresses will help to insulate the beds against cold and prevent pneumonia. Warm blankets are also needed as the temperatures drop.
There are 136 buildings in this makeshift village, and even with a goal of 159 blankets, that still is a shortage as there are at least four people per house. Two or more people will sleep under one blanket; they will make do with what they have.
In most places I have ever been and done this kind of work, if there was a shortage of goods to pass around, there would have been a riot. Instead, the people here, like the rest of the Nepal demonstrated a great deal of patience. They were pleased that we were giving blankets to the widows and orphans first. Even those who didn’t receive a blanket came and thanked us for our generosity.
We will be presenting more blankets soon, as we have received additional money from Thanksgiving donations. Still, we need an additional $1590 to reach our goal of 159 blankets. Anything over that and we’ll give money for mattresses.
Renaissance Outreach Ministries is a small ministry, with our purpose being to train pastors and church leaders in developing nations. However, a time comes when you work with a people and see them in need, you simply can’t turn your back. We have picked one village where we can make a difference. If other missions and organizations would do the same, we can reduce the suffering as the people pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and rebuild like they have always done in past centuries. The people of Nepal, especially the mountain people, are a happy, hearty race of people and real blessing to work with. They could teach us a few things about what is really important in this world: Jesus and family. With all this, they know they have true wealth as they struggle now with lack of material things to bring a sense of comfort to their daily lives.
Can you find time to pray for these people of Tenchet and Chapang Villages? And, if you can share a donation for a blanket, it will go a long way toward helping a family stay warm this winter.
The homes are pretty sparse, and usually made of bamboo. Homes are neat and clean even if living conditions are primitive at best.
All photos by Rev. Jan L. Beaderstadt