PERSONAL THOUGHTS AS I DEPART FROM NEPAL

As I was processing my departure from Nepal, I wrote out my thoughts to some friends and family in the form of an email/journal.  My thoughts were appreciated, and I was asked to post them to the HAND News section so that our supporters can also read them.-

It is going to be quite a transition for me to come back into the sterile world of the USA once again, and get back into a routine.  I deal with some PTSD from time-to-time from the things that I have experienced here, and been through, but I am looking forward to getting back into it again as soon as I can.  I suppose that it is like a war veteran coming home and then volunteering to get straight back into the line of fire again.  Things will be strange for a while.  We have been through 320 aftershocks now and I was in the middle of one 7.3 major quake.  The suffering that I have seen is unexplainable, but we have made a difference, one village at a time; and saved lives.

 

I leave in 12 hours with mixed emotions.  I am quite tired and beat up.  I have not had much sleep for 6 weeks now.  So many have died in front of, and around me; including the Indian doctors killed yesterday by a landslide in my area while I myself was trapped for 3 hours behind a landslide from our 4 tremors yesterday and major monsoon flood that did its best to wash us away at 2am from the side of the mountain.  I am sad for the Marines that lost their lives, Nepal soldiers that lost their lives and four doctors with Doctors Without Borders that lost their lives.  Maybe some "survivors guilt" because I should have died myself at least 40 times in the past 6 weeks, but was some how spared without serious injury.  I believe in God's protection, but I question why I get spared and others do not.  Especially the children.  So many of them have died or been seriously injured.  I couldn't find the body of a 12 year old boy.  Too many rocks on top of him.  I couldn't recover many others.  Too many rocks on top of them.  I did my best for the families to recover whom I could.

 

I miss my soldier brothers after we suffered together dismembering bodies and eating gruel in a military camp on the Tibetan border.  It took me a good course of Cipro to get over my own parasites and violent diarrhea after those 6 days. Major Dhana wears his helmet into the "charpi" because the roof and thousands of pounds of concrete is ready to cave in with each shockwave from the earth.  I am totally out of the loop as to what is going on in the outside world.  Major Dhana called me the other day to check in on me.  He is still up there and missing me badly.  I miss he and Major Raul badly also.

 

We had my big going away party tonight.  I left with promises to return very soon.  I also had a good talk with Pastor Jon Wilson.  He gave me a lot of tips on PTSD and told me to forget anyone remotely understanding what it is like in the other world.  He prepared me for a transition time.  I have not had any panic attacks for a while, but I still scream in my sleep once in a while.  Jon told me that it is normal, but I do need to deal with it at some point, if it bothers me.  I have always appreciated my sleep, but I find that I go to bed hours after everyone else now because I like to think at night.

 

35 or so of the most respected people in Nepal came to my going away tonight.  I was draped in many "khata's" and gifts.  Raj even got out of bed for the first time in months to attend.  We had a long hug and shed a tear together.  I told him that if I don't see him again in Nepal, I will see him in heaven.  I may very well never see my long-time friend who has suffered so much again in this life.

 

Everyone is worried that our mission will decrease with my departure because "I am the glue; the beloved man of the people."  I will do my best to facilitate missions from afar, while also getting back to the necessary task of spending time with Mako and my kids.  I have no idea how they feel right now, as I lost contact for days at a time.

 

Still processing my departure.  Thank you to all HAND supporters for all that you have done for HAND and our mission to help one village at a time after this devastating double earthquake in Nepal.

Posted by Brian Smith

Our work in Nepal continues

After six weeks serving the earthquake victims in Nepal, I am taking a much needed break in Republic of Georgia, with my wife and daughter Anastasia (my wife is from Georgia and this was an opportunity for her to spend time with her family while I was in Nepal). Upon my return to the U.S., I will spend time with my family and continue the work of HAND in our home location in Oregon.

Our work in Nepal continues though, with another successful mission to Bungtang in Northern Nuwakot where another birthing center (tent) was built by the HAND/Global Orphan Prevention/MIDSON team.

The team returned from Nuwakot last night.  Two new team members were added; Anil and Gaurav, both Nepali boys working hard to serve their people.  Continuing team members are Curtis and Komal from HAND, Laxmi and Joaquim from MIDSON, and Eric and Shelby from Global Orphan Prevention.  This was our 5th remote birthing center to be built, with hundreds of babies to be born in during the coming months.

Thank you for such an amazing job team!

Curtis provided this report on our latest successful mission. Also, please visit the HAND Facebook page for a video by Curtis on the most recent mission

The HAND/Global Orphan Prevention/MIDSON team has completed another birthing center in Nuwakot District. We had a rough drive in, with monsoon soaked roads and deep mud. We pushed our vehicles many times to get through to Bungtang village.

We departed early so even with the challenging drive we got to the village in the afternoon. Our two tent birthing center design had to be modified to fit the sloping land. Eric and I created a plan to make a dry entrance from the still standing building, into the tents. Just minutes after we put the final heavy duty tarp on a monsoon unleashed. This was a true test of our tent system. The inside of our tents were 100% dry. The monsoon was so strong we had to dig our trenches nearly two feet wide and a foot deep. Even these large trenches filled within minutes but worked perfectly. We are planning to make a shift to even more solid semi permanent structures for the future missions. This plan will increase our costs but last for two to three years.

 

Posted by Brian Smith

Update on the website and thank you

As Brian plans to depart country and begin the long journey home in 12 hours, he will take over website duties and posting updates. I want to thank Brian for trusting me with updating the website, posting stories, and writing thank you notes while he was in country. It was an honor and privilege to be part of the team in this way during the trip. I also want to publicly thank the Board for their hard work and encouragement on the website during Brian's trip. I firmly believe that HAND is poised for big things in 2015 and beyond, as we seek to help the Nepali people.

Finally, a big thank you to all involved with HAND missions, whom are too numerous to thank. From financial support for the team, to the international team that risked their lives, to the many named and unnamed contributors to our missions, to those that provided support in country navigating the administrative process or giving a meal to our team; we thank you! Our team functioned and continues to function because of the generosity of others. We are humbled by the outpouring of love and support from others as we seek to make a difference. It is because of all of you, that our work is possible. So thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Posted by Matt E.

A post on Rautbesi

Mission accomplished in Rautbesi! This is baby number two, born in the HAND/MIDSON/GOP birth tent! Three weeks ago, there was no place for the 78 currently pregnant women to give birth, after their VDC health post was completely destroyed in the earthquake. Amber Shields was critical to this mission by providing both medical supplies brought from the USA and training to the local nurse.

Curtis Gt, Tendi Sherpa, Eric Warren Moffet, Robin Keunen, Laxmi Tamang, Daniel Tamang, Reji Tamang all provided amazing teamwork in our mission to save the babies. Curtis, Laxmi and I had the honor of doing two food supply missions to Rautbesi. In total we provided 16,000 lbs of rice, dhal, oil and salt in addition to the birthing tent and medical supplies.

Brian to depart country Friday

Brian will be having a going away party tomorrow with many friends and team members as he departs country Friday. We will post a final mission update from Brian soon and will also continue to post stories of Brian's trip and continued work of HAND.

HAND will continue to provide relief efforts through Curtis and other team members once Brian departs country.

Please continue to visit the website for the latest information on what we are doing as an organization and how you can help.

Mission Accomplished in Nuwakot!

 

Here is a report and photos from our team member Coleen on the most recent mission to Nuwakot


Success on this sweet venture! We left yesterday morning out to Nuwakot District, wanting to set up two birthing sites in separate remote villages. After a difficult drive, we arrived to Thakura Village and began setting up the tents...well, the rest of the team did...and I admit, I had to play with the children! So while they worked hard and long, I broke out the bubbles and stickers and we had ourselves some fun smile emoticon these mountain people are absolutely beautiful, and although so many of them have had their homes completely destroyed, they exhibit a resourcefulness and strength that would put many of us to shame. We were honored to be there and help them.


That night we had a monsoon deluge! It rained so hard that the guys' tent completely flooded, and I awoke in the middle of the night to sounds of thunder clapping and the guys with shovels and pickaxes digging a trench to fix the mini river flowing thru their tent. In the morning we finished up the details and were about to head out when we got word of a rock blocking the road out... It was a boulder the size of a VW bug and half as high! Out came the shovels and pickaxes again, and they cleared a path between the boulder and mountain side. We said our goodbyes and drove off, only to find that someone had beat us to the rock...and had gotten themselves thoroughly stuck! Three hours later...and this time we were on our way. We would have to postpone our second site as there was no way to navigate the road to the next village safely in the dark. 

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for us. The aftershocks continue (we had six just this morning!), and this health post was badly cracked throughout. These precious women have a safer place to deliver their babies

 

 

Posted by Matt E.

 

Brian's 8th and final mission update

We received a short email from Brian who will begin his final mission in an hour. We will update as we hear from Brian.

Working in departing in an hour.  Making final vehicle decisions.  Monsoon is here.  I hope that we don't get stuck out in the mountains as I have a flight to catch on Friday.  Final missions close to my departure date always make me nervous.

Posted by Matt E. 

 

Laxmi Update

An update from Laxmi from yesterday's mission to visit Uttam's home village where we also enjoyed a boat ride out on an island. The village area that we visited is one of the most beautiful that I have visited in Nepal.

From Laxmi-

Yesterday, 15 June our team members who visited Markhu VDC of Makwanpur district, Uttam Bhlon Lama, Brian Smith, Kiran Bajracharya, and others also had meeting with the Principal of Shree Saraswati Balbodhinee Secondary School at Markhu VDC and came to realised that despite close to the Kathmandu Valley, only 2.5 hours drive from Kathmandu it is very remote because some of the students have to walk 6 hours in a day to get their education and there is no computer education because of lack of access to internet facility. We also discussed on the strategies in addressing these problems. A principal, Mr Yadav and teachers proposed the solution saying that if there would be a hostel then students who have to travel 6 hours each day would be greatly benefited getting education. Otherwise there is more likelihood for drop out. Also for Computer Education and English language to teach volunteer teachers provision were also explored.


There are total 296 students. 

Ms. Laxmi Lama working as a helper/peon who is studying bachelor level handed over me a small piece of paper where she has written about her condition saying, 

My name is Laxmi Lama aged 28 with 2 kids. I live in Markhu Ward No. 8. I am peon of this school and doing by Bachelor of Education. My husband has been suffering from chronic ulcer and my mother-in-law is suffering from Asthma. 

It is very glad to see that the filter that handed to school in our, Uttam bro and myself have been effectively utilising and there is a demand of another 3 filters to provide safe and clean drinking water to the students. I earned only NPR 5000 per month from which it is difficult for me to manage for my family livelihood and education of my children. I hope you'll consider my situation and provide support me to complete my education so that I can fulfil my dream to become a teacher in this school and also provide good education to my children.

Posted by Matt E

8th and Final Mission (with Brian) Planning Update...

We are preparing for our next mission to Nuwakot.  This will be Brian's 8th and final mission before he leave's Nepal on Friday. 

Brian's past three days have mostly been spent with Raj, Marie and Abhishek.  Brian has been working with Marie on taking the next step for a nursing program and they visited the GED/TOEFL office yesterday to get more details.

Last night, the team said goodbye to Anita, who is leaving Nepal today for India and has been a great friend and team member.  We also added Cristine from the Philippines who has been helping to care for Raj and will be joining our next mission to Nuwakot to build another baby delivery center.  Our tents arrived last night.

As an organization, Brian would like to enroll Marie into the GED program before he leaves.  It is a 3 month course. Brian will present this initiative  to the board.  The option we looked at yesterday would cost $750.  It includes the enrollment fee, classes, testing fee and books.  She would go to class 2 hours per day, 6 days a week for 3 months, and then test.  Marie's best chance of nursing school is to get straight A's in her first year of community college, then apply for the nursing program.  It is very competitive and they only select about 10% of the applicants.  She needs a year of 4.0 college level work before applying.

We continue to work these areas as Brian prepares to leave Nepal with a return trip tentatively scheduled for the fall.

We continue to work to make a difference in small ways in the lives of those in Nepal.

Updates on the next mission and Raj

 

We are changing the plan a bit for the next mission. We are taking our own tents which we are having made today.  The new plan is for a remote region in Nuwakot.  We will leave on Tuesday morning, and return on Thursday evening. This will be one of the last missions that Brian will be a part of before departing country June 20th. More details to follow as the HAND team engages in planning over the next few days.

In addition to planning, Brian will be spending time with Raj and making plans for his children. The mission of HAND is to help the disabled with special emphasis on the children, and the children of Raj fall within our mission. We continue to make plans and may set a project to assist the children after Raj's passing. Brian will present this need to the board in the coming weeks. In the meantime, a donor has graciously offered to provide some funding to the children to help them as they will now be without both parents. Our goal is to help these children and continue to serve the people of Nepal within our mission. As a small organization, we cannot help everyone but want to make an impact in small ways in individuals that can then make their own impact. Both Dirgha and Raj's children are examples of this.

Thank you for your continued support of HAND. You encourage us, you inspire us, and you keep us going through your outpouring of love and support.

Posted by Matt E. Please consider a TAX free donation to HAND

Latest from the most recent mission

From Brian Smith

I like when our team members send out their views from our missions, through their eyes and photos. We returned from our latest mission at 3:30am. Coleen did a fantastic job describing it. I was unfortunately in the same vehicle as Coleen, Komal and Eric. I was pretty sure that we were going to die for the first three hours of our trip as our driver insisted on making 70kpm passes on blind corners with oncoming trucks and giant drop offs on both sides, on top of him having a bit too much to drink on both ends of the drive...

Coleen Rishovd stated...

How do I begin to explain the last 40 hours? I will start with our driver... We left the house with two hired Sumos and their drivers, a couple of tents sent over the day before from a new organization which will remain unnamed (I haven't mentioned them before in prior posts) and all our team and gear for the trip! Sooo, I need you to picture this...think road to Hana, with all its switchbacks and dangers, plus being in the mountains, with cliffs and landslides, and our driver who refused to drive slower than 70 kilometers per hour! After three hours of us asking, then pleading, then yelling, I asked Komal to translate for me..."if you do not slow down, first I will vomit all over your vehicle, then I will throw you out and drive this thing myself!!" I don't know if he translated those exact words, but the driver did get better after that. The trip to Salyantar took us 9 hrs, with the last three being very slow, on nasty potholed dirt roads. When we arrived, we had a little light left and it was beginning to rain. I saw our driver run off into the village. We quickly opened up the first tent and began to set up. The villagers were a great help, and as we finished, the sky opened up in earnest and within fifteen minutes of completion we realized we had a huge problem...the tent was not waterproof!! It was raining inside the tent! There would be no safety for mothers and newborn babies in this type of environment. So after a team meeting, some hurried phone calls to this organization, and a wonderful dinner of dalbaat, we decided to head back out of the mountains...and then our driver showed up...drunk as a skunk! Needless to say, we were not happy campers, especially after our surprise earlier that night with the defective tents. Long story longer  we took the keys from our driver and Curtis drove us out of there. We left at 9 pm in the rain, and arrived back to Kathmandu at 3:30 am. 

What a trip! Aside from the lessons our team leaders learned and follow-up meetings they have planned for today with the new organization, I do want to share some things and thoughts that I had while on this short trip...

The outlying areas are decimated. I couldn't help but weep whenever we passed village after village; entire groups of homes and shops are simply piles of rubble. On the slow gravel roads, I was able to look into the eyes of so many beautiful people...they portray weariness, loss, complete hopelessness. The amount of work that needs to be done to rebuild destroyed homes is going to take a very long time, but what about their lives? The shattered hearts of those who have lost everything, not just their homes but their son, their husband, their grandma, their little baby girl? One gentleman I spoke with lost 5 members of his family, two of them children. He was so broken, still trying to begin to cope with the loss his mind would not accept, but what is now his nightmarish reality. And this is spread across this entire nation...family after family, village after village.

 

The birthing tents are a success in Rautbesi

Update from Laxsmi on taking our birthing tents to the next level in Rautbesi. Thank you Laxmi! 

In the birthing tents that our team from HAND, GOP and MIDSON had set up in our last visit in Rautbesi VDC, Nuwakot Save the Children recently donated Newborn table has also placed. 

I handed over Amber Shields (HAND) bought supplies and equipments such as filled up 2 Oxygen cylinders with regulators, 2 matrix with pillows, Doppler, Apron, Boots, 2 stand fans, etc for the Birthing Centre.

Both Auxiliary Nurse-Midwife, Kanchanmala Shrestha and Health Post Incharge, Satis Marahatta were so much happy and asked me to convey heartfelt thanks to Amber and her team members at HANDGOP and MIDSON who were very much thoughtful generous to come and support them in this critical situation.

Posted by Matt E. Please consider a tax free donation to HAND

Update on Raj

 Raj's daughter

Raj's daughter

 

 From Brian Smith, Executive Director of HAND

Raj Kumar Read-Nepa is a long-time friend in Nepal since 2008.  He is one of my oldest friends in Nepal.  Raj came down with leprosy at age 5.  He was not cured until he was 16, but heavy damage was done.  Since I met Raj, his kidneys have failed, he has had both legs amputated above the knee, and he has lost his wife Nirmaya.  Now his heart is failing, and only operating at about 35%.

For the past month, Raj has been hospitalized.  Last night, I was able to get him home.  Without anyone to care for him, I am currently staying with him to be his "nurse" until we leave on our next mission.  His children Abhishek and Marie are back in school.  Marie is working on her +2 final exams.

 

Last night his wheel chair had a flat tire.  I set off on an evening adventure to get it repaired.  After trying several shops along the crazy street, I was at a loss as to what to do.  Three boys age 7, 11, and 12 saw my dilemma and with limited English, we set off to find a place that could put in a new tube.  They ran down the street pushing each other in the wheel chair saying "lets go!"  

 

While waiting for it to be repaired, I could see that the boys were hungry, so I filled them up on momo's, washed down with cold Mountain Dew.  We topped it off with an ice cream each.  They inhaled their food, so they were hungry.

 

Just before Abhishek left for school, he and I set off on a mission to find some momo's for Raj, because he was really hungry.  This is good because he has hardly eaten for the past month and lost a ton of weight.  It was also my first time riding the chaotic streets of Kathmandu on a scooter, with Abhishek on the back.  As I dodged cows, bicycles, motorcycles, busses, cars and trucks, I had to force myself to stay on the left side of the road, they drive British style here.  More than 1000 children are killed each year in the streets of Kathmandu.  I can see why, and was glad to make it back to the house, still intact.

 

This morning Raj is feeling a little better, but he didn't sleep well last night.  He is still running a mild temperature of 100F, but with a serious peritoneal infection, that is expected.  We have him doing dialysis 4 times per day and he is on a strong antibiotic.  I am hoping and praying that my friend pulls through on this one.

HAND Update

There has been a lot of activity with HAND the past 24 hours. 

First, we are sad to report that Raj, who is leprosy affected is dying. We were able to provide him with $400 toward medical expenses today but unfortunately, he will be discharged from the hospital soon. Raj's heart is operating at 35% and he has a terrible peritoneal infection from his dialysis.  Tomorrow, Brian is meeting with Raj's children to discuss plans after Raj dies per Raj's request. The children are 15 and 18.  As an organization, and per our mission, we will do our best to look out for his orphan children after he passes. Raj told Brian today that he is grateful to HAND for extending his life long enough to see his kids into their teens.  The life has gone from his eyes though and he can barely breathe or sit up.  With Raj's hospital bills mounting, he will probably be discharged from the hospital tomorrow.  In Nepal you have to pay up front.  If Raj gets discharged, Brian will carry him out of the hospital and get him home.

In other news, Brian was a speaker for a fundraiser to build a new school that was destroyed in the earthquake.  Currently 125 children are meeting in 3 tiny classrooms that are open on all 4 sides, but at least have a tin roof after they put a roof and pony walls of stone back up.  Brian was honored that he was asked to speak to 150 people.  Brian has spent a lot of time with the school and it was a great honor for him to be part of the event.

Brian has several meetings scheduled over the next couple days, and the HAND team in partnership with the other organizations we have worked with (GOP, One Heart and MIDSON) will be departing on another mission soon. Currently, Brian is scheduled to leave Nepal in mid-June and has several projects and trips lined up before his departure.

Thank you for your support of our work in Nepal. You make all of this possible. 

Posted by Matt E. Please consider a tax free donation to HAND