As the earthquake struck on the 25th of April around 12pm, Imran & Jafar Hussein were inside their home at Thamel, Kathmandu. The neighbourhood is built around an area with a fresh water source located in a huge cascading fountain area with stone taps at the bottom. The taps provide the locals with access to clean water that they use for drinking and washing.
-I was at home and the earth shook. I looked out the window and saw the seven storey building opposite to me come crashing down. It was built maybe four years ago so it was quite new, Imran tells me.
-Immediately we ran out and started looking for survivors. There had just been a group of Indians who entered the house, which was a guesthouse. The men of the group had already gone out for lunch but some women had stayed and were in the shower as the building fell. We pulled people out from the rubble and managed to save one woman who was still in the shower, completely naked. We covered her up and tried to find more survivors. We managed to save six people. Eight people died, including a few people who were at the water taps and the building collapsed on top of them, he continues.
Imran and Jafar had previously started a club called “Thamel Gahiti Yuva Club” with their friends and they decided to start working for the rebuilding and cleaning of the area as soon as they could. In order for them to do this, they had to spend money and register themselves as an official club. Currently there’s seven members in the club and they are struggling to get the basic tools needed for the work.
Big machinery is out of the question not only because of economic reasons but also because the old stone taps and the area around them cannot be worked on with big machines without breaking it. The club wants to preserve the cultural history of the area and build it back to the state it used to be before the quake. Culturally and historically the area is important as certain pieces of the stone works date back some 1500 years.
On the 8th of August, the main cleanup work began. The government sent in big machines in order to excavate the site thoroughly and get the immediate work done. As they did that, they also had to damage and break some of the old stone works of the fountain area.
To get deeper into the “pit”, the machines had to break apart some of the surroundings and Imran along with his club members are working to clean the area without doing that. What that means in practice is going in, physically, and moving rocks by hand. It is hard and tedious work but painfully necessary at the same time.
-We are going around various construction sites to ask for the big sacks that they use to bring cement in. These sacks provide us with a way to move the rocks off site and to areas where the government can then dispose of them. Our basic tools are those sacks that we transport the rocks with, shovels that we dig around the rocks with and hammers to break down the rocks that are too big to be picked up, Imran explains.
The club is working on the area every morning and on weekends they have organized an event where anyone interested can come in and get their hands dirty. There’s plenty of work for everybody and help is very much needed.
-We don’t need money per se as it won’t help us clean the area. We are not looking to gather money for our club either, we just want to rebuild the area into the condition it used to be before the earthquake, Imran adds.
The club estimates that with the current state of work it is going to take them roughly a year to get the area cleared. This could be drastically faster if they would be able to source more help on a more regular basis. Tourists are very welcome to help.
-We have made noise both personally as well as in the social media, asking for people to come and help us. Some do, some don’t. Whatever the case may be, all help is welcomed with open arms and we really want more people to know about our situation. We have had the Nepali press come over, too, so we are hopeful that the future will bring in more help, Imran says.
If you are planning a trip to Nepal, or know someone who’s about to come, please consider helping out. Anyone who flies into Kathmandu will visit Thamel one time or another so it would be rather easy to do. Also, after a morning’s work, the guys always go out for some delicious Nepali tea and the volunteers are all welcome to join. You can check more about the event and the club itself on their Facebook page.