With full of passion and enthusiasm to help rural people of Nepal, 5 French volunteers (Ophelie, Eddine, Khalil, Rafik and Camille) arrived in Upardang Gadi, the beautiful hill village of Chitwan, in mid monsoon.
During 3 weeks of their stay, they helped people to build 15 smoke-less stoves, 15 simple-pit latrines and also distributed the basic medicines (paracetamol, antiseptics, tapes and bandages) to school such that people would have easy access to basic treatment.
Being the medical students, their focus is to improve hygiene and living condition of people which include building smoke-less stoves, latrines, help for education, prevention, distribution of equipment. They desired to implement necessary health program for mother and child to reduce perinatal mortality. But, obviously they did not have much information and idea to implement the program. On this regard, they talked with Hom Kumari Magar, the local health volunteer of the village to understand the general health condition and the need. Her information helped them to devise better plan for next year program. They also met the district public health officer to inform their activities and to design the next year program to initiate the health facility in Gadi. As nearest health post from the Gadi is in Shaktikhor which is about 2 hours of walk, people are suffering in great deal.
There was incessant rain in hills infested with blood-thirsty leeches. But non of these affected much the determination and motivation of the volunteers and villagers. Local people carried the cement, tin, toilet pan and pipe all the way from Shaktikhor to Gadi (some 3 hours of uphill walk). Volunteers also helped them to carry materials and build the toilets.
A technician from Shaktikhor came to Gadi to make smoke-less stove but he suddenly got ill. General medication did not work and his health was really deteriorating. Villagers decided to take him down to Shaktikhor in the evening though it was raining heavily at the moment. Five people in turn carried him on their back and walked down hill for 2 hours to get to Shaktikhor. After complete recovery, he came to Gadi again and started making smoke-less stoves. With support from volunteers and villagers, he quickly made 15 stoves (4 in Gadi, 3 in Darsing, 6 in Kape and 2 in Saltana). It was good to see the smoke goes out through the chimney. Smoke is really affecting the health of women and children who spent most of the time in kitchen. Smoke-less stove also consumes less firewood. However, some families are reluctant to make smoke-less stove because smoke is used to dry the corn that is stored just above (or upstairs) the kitchen. Volunteers even enjoyed dhido (traditional food made of corn flour) cooked in smoke-less stove. Volunteers visited the Kape which is about 1 hour of walk from Gadi to observe the smoke-less stoves. Villagers greeted them offering raksi, the local alcohol made of millet. There were plenty of leeches on the way while walking through the forest.`
Volunteers provided the materials for toilet (cement, tin, pan and pipe) and people themselves made the toilets. Government had already provided toilet pan to some four families under the Open-defecation Free Zone Program in Gadi and accordingly Dahakhani VDC had declared the open-defecation free zone but all the pans were stored safely inside the houses. People informed that they could not buy cement and tin that needed to build the toilet. Volunteers helped them to buy the necessary materials. Some 7 families were provided toilet pan along with cement and tin and rest were provided cement and tin only. So some families made completely new toilets while other mended their old ones. Monsoon rain marred the progress of toilet construction.
A program was organized in Gadi School to distribute the medicines, soaps and toothbrushes and toothpastes. Prior to distribution of medicines, the volunteers made the poster presentation to explain how people get sick and how to prevent from the sickness. They also explained the procedure to use the medicines and to apply the antiseptics/bandages on the wounds. After distributing soaps to kids, volunteers did practical demonstration to wash the hand properly and kids followed suit.
Volunteers learned to carry the doko, big basket made from bamboo to carry things on the back. They also learned some Nepali languages during their stay in Gadi. Some of them were even sleep talking in Nepali language. In the midnight, Camille heard Ophelie saying "nun dinus" (please give salt).
They enjoyed the free time playing different card games: they learned Nepali game, "Kitti", while locals enjoyed French game, "Speed". Boys in the village are very fond of playing football but there is not big enough ground so they usually play football in small curve-shaped ground inside the fort. Eddine also played with them while others enjoyed watching the game.
Weather is often fickle in the hills during monsoon. It is wonderful to see white cloud moving on the backdrop of the green hills that gradually engulfing the village.
"Every time I come out of the home, I feel like to take photos." Ophelie said. They ran out the space in the memory cards and had to buy extra memory.
Singing and dancing is the only way of entertainment for the people in remote village where there is no electiricty to watch television. People of all ages often sing and dance in the evening after the day of hard work. Volunteers also involved in this musical entertainment. People organized special event on the last day to entertain volunteers and the evening came alive with Nepali folk songs and thundrous dance.
After weeks of wonderful work, volunteers departed the village with heavy heart. Villagers appreciated their support, thanked them for their splendid work and farewelled them putting auspicious tika on their forehead and flower garland around their neck.