Project Stories:

In the midst of coldness and blockades

Aid supplies distributed to 1.520 families

by Sophie Soltau, 2016/01/08

Sophie Soltau, a young woman from Munich, acts currently as coordinator for the humedica family sponsorship programme in Nepal. In her report she recounts how she managed to spread a little joy in spite of blockades and cold winter weather:

„It is bitterly cold. The mist lingers heavily in the hills of Sindhupalchowk. Shortly after sunrise, all but invisible in the thick fog, the first sounds of the day are to be heard outside. The rattling of dishes, murmured Nepalese, cockcrows. I peel myself out of my sleeping bag, which does not succeed in keeping me warm during the night despite its down filling.

From the window of our office in Sipaghat I gaze over the rice fields that have been harvested during the last weeks and are now being prepared for the next sowing. The first women are already on the road, wrapped in their scarfs they carry “namlos”, big weaved baskets fastened on their foreheads, along the narrow paths of the rice fields.

In a small, crudely cobbled together hut opposite our office several men warm their hands with a cup of hot “Chai”, tea with lot of milk and sugar. A pair of roughly five years old twins have made themselves comfortable in a straw heap besides the rooster. Both have runny noses. No wonder, both of them do not wear neither warm clothing nor shoes.

How people here permanently withstand the cold remains a mystery for me. The sun rarely comes out before noon and even then it stays only for a short time. About 4:30 pm it sets off again for another hemisphere leaving once more the field to the cold. There is not a single house with a heating. Moreover, most of the so-called houses in Sindhupalchowk are not buildings but merely makeshift shelters, no more than huts really.

More than 90 percent of the huts were destroyed during the two earthquakes last year. People then lost not only their housing, but also everything inside: beds, blankets, warm clothing, heaters and, in the worst case, also a loved one. Nobody here has any savings, so no one can simply replace the things that have been destroyed. Therefore people here are very poorly prepared for the cold winter. Most of them literally own nothing but the clothes they wear.

The nights are the worst. In the accommodations you can not keep the small fires going all night because the smoke is too heavy. The covers are often thin and have to be shared by several people. That will change for the 183 families who take part in our family sponsorship project.

When my Nepalese team and me set off for Bhimtar, it is still foggy. At the pre-arranged meeting point some women, men and children already wait for us to bring the aid supplies. While the sun is slowly breaking through the clouds, their number increases. And then, finally, the two trucks arrive, which drove off early in the morning in Katmandu with a huge load of thick, warm fleece blankets.

Slowly the sun comes out and for a short time the cold is forgotten. The joy of the families is clearly visible and the excitement is rising while we unload the blankets and prepare the distribution. The covers are very smooth and warm and I can already imagine what a relief it will be to snuggle up into them in cold nights. With pleasure the waiting men and women accept each two blankets and pack their new treasures into the corresponding bags. It feels like Christmas.

The donations from Germany did not only provide for the families, who take part in our family sponsorship programme, but also for people from the district Ramechap. All in all we could distribute warm blankets, a pressure cooker, mats and rechargeable torches to 1.520 families. These things are all urgently needed for the winter, but still rarely available due to the ongoing gas crisis. It therefore was a real feast that humedica was able to distribute them now.

Maybe these few aid supplies seem like a drop in the ocean as there are so many more families, who freeze, still so many more children, so many more dark haired little heads in urgent need for hats to cover their ears. But when I watch the men and women packing their blankets and fastening the bags on their forehead for the transport, I know that for these 1.520 families the German donations and humedica made a difference today. Thank you very much for your support that made this possible.

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