managed by D. Haeberlé (Communication)
The Helambu Community Development Organisation (HECDO) is a Nepalese registered non-profit NGO founded in 2012. Its goal is to promote women-led community development in the rural Helambu Region of Sindhupalchok district (covering the Helambu, Mahankal, Palchowk, Ichowk and Kiyul VDCs).
The context before the earthquake:
Virtually forgotten by central government for 17 years, the remote Helambu area of Sindhupalchok district was already among the poorest in Nepal. Lacking basic infrastructure and services, the locals were barely surviving on subsistence farming, and the youth were leaving.
Foreign development projects have yet to improve people's lives, their top-down design and poor local integration leaving them vulnerable to corruption and graft. (complete analysis of regional challenges: http://www.hecdo.org/sindhupalchwok_caren.pdf)
HECDO was created by Helambu locals in 2012 to address these issues by fostering development for the villagers by the villagers. By supporting local development initiatives, it brings the hope that the vicious circle of increasing poverty and rural depopulation can be broken.
HECDO's Objectives are:
--- To make available necessary knowledge, science, technology and skill with inspiring towards organic agriculture system to farmer, farmer group, farm, cooperative and community organisations.
--- To make available community service for the protection, promotion, sale, distribution and export various types of crops, vegetables and fruits, including medico plant and herbs with using agriculture technology.
--- To work relating to environment protection, land erosion control and increase fertility.
--- To conduct awareness programme on community education and health, human rights, peace, development and democracy.
--- To conduct study, research and training on subject relating to the objectives of the organisation within the country and abroad.
--- To conduct other activities relating to the aforementioned objectives.
Since the April 25 earthquake:
Central coordination of relief efforts has failed, with most foreign donors not trusting the government’s ability to organise and set priorities. For example, we have witnessed that despite millions spent on disaster preparation, there are in fact no established channels and mechanisms in place to reach the needy and properly distribute relief services. Relief funds and materials are being delayed, diverted or misused on an alarming scale.The fact that there have been no local government elections for close to two decades only makes things worse.
As a result, the villages/communities are now challenged to build their own capacities to mobilise/accept funds and resources and utilise them collectively, effectively and transparently.
As the only functioning local NGO in the five VDCs where it operates, HECDO was immediately active filling the void, providing and coordinating emergency relief on the ground.
HECDO created a special body, the HECDO Relief and Rehabilitation Committee (HRRC) to:
--- ensure that emergency relief priorities are set efficiently and apolitically
--- collect funds for developmentally-integrated relief projects
--- oversee transparency and accountability
The scale and variety of challenges facing HECDO's HRRC is enormous. It is trying to coordinate and support relief efforts while upholding its key objectives (see above). Below is a partial list of issues it it dealing with.
Building temporary shelter for families that lasts 3 years
Tents and plastic cannot withstand the Nepalese monsoon. The most immediate need is dissemination of designs and expertise to support families in building their own viable temporary shelters constructed with locally available materials. Not all families will be able to benefit from this in the short term.
Building sustainable livelihoods - Process support
Local economies that were suffering before the disaster are now shattered. HECDO will accompany villagers in 5 VDCs through the process of organising themselves to build viable livelihoods based on sustainable biological agro-forestry initiatives.
Building sustainable livelihoods -Training
HECDO aims to provide training to villagers, whether on local leadership development, sanitation or agro-forestry business models. By providing the fishing rod rather than the fish, ownership and sustainability are ensured.
Relocating Villages - Environmental Conservation
12 high mountain Helambu Villages will have to be completely relocated. There is a brief opportunity to influence this process with expert input to ensure that implementation of replacement villages adheres to ecco-community best practise.
Food Sovereignty - Material support and training
HECDO is partnering with specialised organisations to provide local organic seeds to families whose crops or seed stores have been destroyed by the earthquake/landslides. This is the first step in a larger scheme of income generation through organic farming micro-business development.
Community Centers - HECDO’s idea to make a big difference
The one project that feeds into all the above is the creation of local Community Centers in each VDC. In the short term, the centers will provide:
emergency shelter for those without houses, and in case of future disasters
meeting facilities to support information, education, training, consulting and community organisation, cultural and recreational activities
storage for agricultural seeds and equipment
As the hub of communal activity, the center’s future equipment, facilities and services will include:
a community library with audio-video/documentary and computers with Internet as a community learning/training center on issues of health, education, agriculture, forestry, environmental conservation and adaptation with climate change, sustainability, etc.;
seed banks with agricultural tools and a laboratory for regular advice and support by technicians/expert(s);
primary health care service to be run by volunteers and medical assistants as necessary;
cooling and storage for collection and commercialisation of local products from dairy to meat and the widely available but wasted wild fruits and herbs and other underused fruits and vegetables; and
cooperative market for access to daily supplies as well as outside trade.
HECDO is setting up a management sub-committee in each VDC to build, own and operate their community centre. The Community Centers will be built with the maximum local expertise and resources. The process of building them will empower the villagers to collectively cooperate to not only survive this catastrophe but to thrive. The many activities housed in the center will make them central to the community’s ongoing self-directed development.
See the project description for more details and to make a donation.
More Information on pre-earthquake projects can be found on the HECDO website at : http://www.hecdo.org/index.php Though you should understand that website maintenance is currently a low priority in Nepal.
This is a long overdue news update on HECDO’s activities since the earthquake.
In this posting we begin with the immediate aftermath of the earthquake
Right after the Earthquake*, HECDO leveraged its unique status as locally implanted NGO to provide the most remote Helambu villages with basic foods, purified water, temporary shelter as well as to assist medical teams in triage of the wounded. Travelling on foot for up to 14 hours a day for several days to identify the people in real need of relief, HECDO was able to reach places no other organisations were reaching.
The families selected for relief support lived in different isolated and remote areas of Helambu, and belonged mostly the backward ethnic, indigenous and "Dalit (so called untouchable) communities. These people are mostly illiterate and have no active representation in local government bodies and social organizations. Geographically isolated and racially excluded, they do not benefit from the social services and development activities available to high class dominated communities.
In total, 5000 people benefited directly from HECDO’s relief actions, made possible through a total of 40,000$ collected from various donors. Here are four personal stories by way of illustration:
1- Pemba Hyolmo Sherpa, 38
Helambu VDC -8, Helambu Region, Sindhupalchok
13 May 2015
I come from the most remotest area from the high hill of my VDC. There is no road access and we also have lost phone communication as there is no repair of electricity destroyed by the earthquake. You can see me here (photo coming soon) with some 50 people - elderly, youth and even children mostly women and girls - we have gather here seeking relief. We heard a rumor that there will be relief distribution here today. But we have not seen anything yet. We already waited for more than four hours now we have to return before it gets dark. It is very painful. We have heard most of the relief materials are grabbed on the way before they arrive here. It is not fair and we do not know what our government is doing. I hope sir you can do something for us. We have no foods and no tents. We are surviving from little grains we were able to recover from the rubbles but no shelters during these heats and rains. We cannot sleep and our children are in very bad conditions.
HECDO arranged a delivery of 100 relief package from its near-by temporary store that contained 25 kg. of rice with 1 kg each salt and sugar, including 50 tents. They were highly grateful to HECDO but we know this is not enough and we have to follow up closely for more support in future.]
2- Kulman Tamang, 70
Mahankal VDC-7 Bharati,Helambu Region, Sindhupalchok
16 May 2015
I am the head of the house. I was making bamboo basket at the time of April 25 earthquake. I could not run as my knees have been in pain. My house suddenly collapsed over me but I had not lost my sense. I cried for about two hours for help but no one could hear me. I have been hearing the noise and the cry of my son Dhan Bahadur and his wife Buddhimaya outside saying I might have already been dead. Around 5:00 PM I was almost in an unconscious when they started to look for my "dead" body. I had very little sense at the time. When they found one of my hands then I moved my hand. Only then they might have realized that I was still alive and they started taking me out carefully and securely. I feel lucky at my age of 70 to survive from this earthquake but my condition is desperate. This little house was my sole achievement of my life made out of my hard -earn income from my traditional bamboo handicrafts but I lost all of it. I could not go to hospital due to the lack of motor road. I have been recovering slowly by the use of traditional herbal medicine.
Till today over the past two weeks I had not been able to receive any relief support. I with my family have been surviving from the left over corn from our little field. We have been living under a small shelter made after by using bamboo materials. Today I feel a great relief to meet the people from Helambu Community Development Organisation. Receiving rice, beaten rice, lentil, cooking oil and a tent has become a miracle in my family. It is a big help for us. Some first aid medicine given to me will be helpful for my pain relief and recovery. I hope there will be more such help in future.
3- Kale Lama, 76
Ichok VDC-8, Helambu region, Sindhupalchok
27 May 2015
I was lying on a mat inside the house. The earthquake took away everything I had-my house and animals. I lost my wife Kanchhimaya and grandson Gyalbo Lama. My son has been out of contact for more than three years and his wife is staying at her parents. We lost five people from among seven houses. Due to the remoteness of our area and the lack of young people who could be active in such a situation I had not received any relief support as of today.
Today I feel a rebirth of my life after receiving life-saving relief materials from HECDO officials and volunteers. Over the past weeks we could not get any things and we could not go anywhere as the road access almost four hours of walk away. We, the elderly people and children saw helicopters flying over our heads but they did not stop at our place. in such a pathetic situation we were living we are grateful to HECDO. We hope HECDO will do more for us in future both in relief as well as the revival of our livelihoods.
4- Rama Giri, 32 (HECDO Office member)
Palchok VDC, Nautale, Helambu Region, Sindhupalchowk
2 May 2015
I was inside the house with my four school-going children as it was a Saturday. When the earthquake hit we could not think for a while as the whole house is swinging. Then we rushed out when the ceilings and bricks started falling on our heads and bodies and neighbours crying saying is the earthquake - earthquake! My children started crying when the whole house collapsed and it destroyed everything we had. We could even take out our beds, cloths, grains and kitchen utilities. We all cried for sometimes with the neighbours and started thinking for the night to hide our heads. We did not even think about food. We two families shared a hut built of out bamboo and some tin roof.
My family situation is so bad that my husband has gone to Malaysia to work. The money he earns is not even enough to pay the interest we have to pay for the loans we have had taken. I live in big difficulties to educate my four children even to feed them and buy stationery for them. Sometime I even feel like committing a suicide but I know my children will suffer if I ever do that. My only income has been some rent money and a salary given to me by HECDO for taking care of the office. So HECDO has been a big support for me.
It was a big relief to receive a phone call from HECDO office in Kathmandu about our situations. I explained about the situation, the trauma, the lack of food and the whole village almost collapsed. I requested one tent as the most immediate need. I was so happy to be assured of tents and foods not only for me but also other households in the communities.
Just in 3 days of time, it was big support for me and my family. I also felt a pride to be a member of HECDO and get involved in relief distribution in the area. But I felt so bad that we lost all computers, furniture, books and kitchen utilities.
Thank-you so much to everyone who contributed to the emergency relief by wiring money to HECDO directly in May. The 3500$ thus collected produced a direct impact on meeting the daily needs and health issues of 100 families at the climax of the crisis.
As you know, HECDO’s core activity is about supporting intelligent ecologically and socially sustainable development based on locally initiated projects. “Thanks to” the earthquake, a lot has been happening in this area too.
The next updates coming shortly:How HECDO significantly advanced its development agenda through its relief activities.
*From Wikipedia: On 25 April, an earthquake occurred between Kathmandu and Pokhara with a magnitude of 7.9M and 15 km (9.3 mi) below the surface. Several aftershocks were reported in the region. Steep mountains and narrow roads in the Sindhupalchowk District have drastically slowed rescue efforts. Electricity and communication were cut off across in the district, thus residents were isolated. Of the 66,688 houses in the district 64,565 or 96.8% As of 23 August, more than 3,550 people died in the district, and thousands of people were injured, of which 614 were sent to Kathmandu for treatment. Over 40 people were rescued from debris, and more than 3,000 people were still missing.