This mission to Tsum lower valley was made possible because Tsum Youth Society invited me to be there. Tsum Youth Society (https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=tsum%20society%20youth%20club) is a local NGO established by a group of young people who study or work in Kathmandu with the aim of helping to develop Tsum Valley. You saw already in the previous blogs how isolated the villages are from modernity. While westerners like us often fantasize about the life of the isolated hinterlands of the Himalayas, the real life of people there is very tough with or without the earthquake. There is no medical service, no education facility except primary schools. And now all primary schools have collapsed and there is no education continuing in two villages I visited.
So Tsum Youth Society is trying to contribute to their communities with knowledge and resources, which they can access in Kathmandu and beyond. One of the group leaders, Rinzin Lama, who was my interpreter during my visit, said “I was the first person who became educated in the university from my village. I feel responsible for my own communities. When I came back to the valley by a helicopter immediately after the earthquake with some basic supplies, the villagers cried and said it was good that I did not forget about them.”
Rinzin is a very resourceful young man. He and his friends raised funds through a crowdfunding, negotiated with the UN big guys for the use of helicopters, contacted willing volunteers from all over the world, and selected skillful volunteers (one from Australia and the other from USA) who could help the community to learn a new way of building houses – simple but still safer than their traditional stone houses. Rinzin has a great ideas, such as building a rocket stove to increase heating efficiency in villagers’ homes (they are using open fires now which cause irritations for eyes and throats of many women and children), utilizing abundance of water supply from the mountains for micro-hydro power, etc.
On my last day in Tsum Valley, the UN’s helicopter arrived full of building materials, nails, metal sheets, cement, etc., which are not available in the valley and yet vital for construction. “Wow, are they a donation from the UN?” I asked. He said “Oh no, we bought them all with our privately funded donations. The UN is only providing transportation at a discounted rate.” While it is great that UN is providing such services, I was so impressed by Rinzin’s cheerful but realistic attitude.
There are plenty of people who are complaining “NGOs are not doing this and that, the UN is corrupt, and the government is useless.” Yes, some of these criticisms are valid. However these people at the valley have to live and prepare for freezing winter which is just a foot step away now. You focus on doing what you can slowly but steadily, despite all the frustration and anger towards what is happening in Nepal right now. No wonder Rinzin himself found TRE seriously useful for him! I learnt so much from these young people’s leadership and commitment towards their homeland.
And of course, a sincere “Well done!” and Big thanks for Rinzin, who so quickly and swiftly organized my visit with no fuss, but just joy for being my interpreter for 7 days! Thanks so much for the people of Ripche and Chumling for feeding and looking after me.
Also Big Thanks to the Nenagh Nepal Earthquake fund whose support to the Tsum youth society included covering the cost of our helicopter fare.
The ladies promised me that they would continue to practice together, and wanted me to come back. We hope to return next year to see how the ladies and all the community are doing!