Doug and Trish Scott’s Recce Trip to Nepal

Please click on the above images from the recce visit to view them full size (Thanks to Robin Cross for the pics)

On 15 July we flew to Kathmandu filled with trepidation as to what we would find.  Our lives since 25 April, when the news of the earthquake reached us, have been overwhelmed by the facts filtering through that 90% of CAN projects, which are all in remote areas, have been destroyed.

CAN was able to initiate emergency help to the worst hit areas thanks to an open line of communication between the UK and Bhai Tamang, who for the last few years has organised CAN/CAT trekking requirements in Nepal.  Bhai was fortunate as his house was not damaged whereas our excellent Office Manager in Kathmandu, Murari Gautam, to this day sleeps by his wrecked home in a makeshift shelter of tin and tarpaulin. The only good news is that out of 59 salaried staff no-one had lost their life but most had lost their homes.

There have been consistent updates on the CAN website and these will continue but this report is to all our personal friends who have supported us over the last three months and to reassure you that your generosity is being put to good use.

We had already sent out two ‘recce teams’ to various areas – they have brought back very useful information.  We were ‘Recce Team 3’ consisting of ourselves and:

  • Iain Watt, retired surgeon from Scotland
  • Robin Cross, MD of Article 25, an architect specialising in post-earthquake rebuild
  • Glyn Utting, structural engineer, and Simon Eden, geologist, both given us by WYG
  • David Webber, Shelter Box, with vast experience in first response in disaster areas

Everyone was able to cover their own costs except Robin Cross, who has overstretched finances in his own charity, but has considerable experience in designing rural development in post-earthquake zones.

The monsoon is in full swing so it was difficult to plan in advance and our time was short as all of the projects are a minimum three days’ walk from a road-head and the majority up to eight days.  Our only hope was to investigate going by helicopter.

Luck was on our side as Mingma Sherpa, who has climbed all the 8,000m peaks is also involved.  He comes from Walung where CAN built a Gompa.  He is also involved with a helicopter company and he therefore gave us very favourable terms.  So, we flew out most mornings, very early and covered North Gorkha – consisting of Sama, Lihi, Prok, Bihi, Lho Health Posts and Kutumsang, Milarepa, Melamchi and Langtang.  We also made a long overland trip to Bahrabise, the school for deaf children near the Tibetan border, and finally the three Porter Rescue Shelters near Everest.

The physical state of these areas, apart from the Porter Rescue Shelters, is dire and nearly all the Health Posts, Schools and Hostels will have to be re-built.  For example, 135 houses were destroyed in Melamchi plus the School, Health Post and Hostels.  Purna Gautam, who is Headmaster, has been nothing less than heroic along with his dedicated staff and the villagers who have worked tirelessly to provide temporary accommodation and schooling through using re-cycled materials from the wrecked buildings.  This resilient and resourceful attitude has been prevalent in all areas and our nurses deserve special mention for not leaving their posts despite many of their family homes being destroyed.

Doug initiated a “work for cash” scheme whereby villagers get cash for salvaging materials from the wreckage, i.e. stacking wood neatly, piling stones ready for re-building in the Autumn.  This helps to provide a much needed income when so many of their crops and animals have been destroyed.

Please click on the above images from the recce visit to view them full size (Thanks to Robin Cross for the pics)

Langtang village, which was splashed across the media, was totally destroyed – 116 houses, school and Health Post, mainly caused by a huge landslide and when we landed there, there was no evidence of any dwelling having ever existed.  This is a major project and well beyond CAN’s remit of financing.  However, the young people left who were all in Kathmandu wish CAN to be in charge of the re-construction, on a different site but it will be from a separate Funding Account.

I think that is really all the practical news update.  Plans are now being drawn up and building will hopefully start in the Autumn providing the Nepali Government gives the OK and as to date approximately £1,000,000 has been raised, so the funds are there to begin.

On a personal note, Doug and I found the whole experience deeply emotional and harrowing.  As our ‘travelling companions’ commented – they were all used to going to hot-spots, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, etc but did not have to contend with personal feelings – they just went in, did the job and came out.  But so many of the Nepalis are close friends of many years – most of the staff have been working for CAN for on average 10-15 years, some longer.  To see their courage and resilience first hand was truly humbling.

Finally none of these future plans would be possible without the generosity of yourselves and the unknown British public and people from all over the world.

Our promise to you all is that every penny will be well spent.

Doug and Trish Scott

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