Families in tents

Right when we arrived in Kathmandu two weeks ago and we first saw the families living there in the tents on the edge of the main street, it was clear to us that we had to do something on behalf of Travel for Smiles. It was going to be a few days before we settled in and found our role as volunteers in the Himalayan children’s home, but as soon as that happened, we set out to work out a plan, when, and how to help the families living in tents in such shattering conditions. Although it should not be a long-term solution to their problems, we once again opted for generous food packages so they would at least not have to worry about food for the next few weeks.

We sat down with Mina, the home director’s sister, and Karuna,a girl who is already studying, to create a grocery list that suits Nepali’s eating habits. At the end we came back with 36 kg of rice, 12 kg of potatoes, 8 kg of lentils, 6 kg of onions, 6 kg of oranges, four cauliflowers, 60 eggs, a few biscuits, oil, sugar, salt and various garlic bulbs and chili peppers. All this we divided in four large bags, which we then, along with Mina, Karuna and the newly arrived volunteer Levin, brought to said families. The situation on the ground should be even worse than initially thought. In three to four-square-meter tents with up to eight people in each, surrounded by garbage stinking of faeces, most of the children and adults were waiting for us with unhealed bone fractures, open wounds and other illnesses.

Of course, it did not take thirty seconds and we were completely surrounded by families begging for help. Luckily we had the two girls with us, who helped us a lot as translators. With their help, we let people know that we will not start distributing food packages until each family waits in front of their tent so we can keep track of who is with whom. It soon turned out that more than four families live here, which is why we decided without hesitation for a moment to leave the scene of events in order to be able to put together the missing packages as quickly as possible and to come back again. Each of our five-person team was given the task of finding a handful of groceries, so the whole action went off smoothly and really fast.

Since our rice and oil order exceeded the available resources in one of the stores, two motorcycles were quickly sent to get the missing supplies so we could be back at the tents thirty minutes later with four more packages. The families who were already waiting for us welcomed us a second time with great gratitude and after the renewed request that everyone should wait in front of their tent, the rest of the distribution was actually relatively orderly. All in all, it was a successful donation and a new defining experience for all of us. Levin, Mina and Karuna were very pleased to have contributed to this action and of course we were grateful for their support.

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