8-14 January 2016 #790

Learning to rebuild

Hong Kong University students help teach and rebuild classrooms at schools in Kavre
Siran Liang in KAVRE

PICS: SIRAN LIANG

When Zhilin Xiao, a student at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) walked into the front yard of First Love Nepal (FLN) Children Home in Bhakunde Besi, 50km east of Kathmandu, last week, she was immediately greeted by excited children.

Xiao had returned to the village four months after first volunteering for post-earthquake reconstruction with 16 other HKU students to rebuild classrooms at the Thakuri Primary School in collaboration with the Nepali NGO, Living Hope Nepal.

International aid flooded Nepal after the earthquake but most relief workers left after a few months,” says Xiao, “we returned because we realised that Nepal still needs help to rebuild.”

Called Nepal Recovery Program, the HKU students also help teach at two secondary schools in Kavre. Says Suraj Shrestha, director of FLN Children Home: “The help from Hong Kong students is important not just for our children but also for the whole community especially because government aid is not forthcoming.”

The Hong Kong students believe that by rebuilding damaged structures and constructing new airy and bright classrooms, they will be leaving something tangible behind.

The program received 38 sign ups in a weeklong on-campus recruitment in Hong Kong in November and selected 17 members from various disciplines. The team includes two Indian architecture students at HKU, Gayathri Sivakumar and Shivangi Das.

While in India, Das felt the Nepal earthquake in April, so when she learnt about the program she decided to come despite her family’s concern for her safety. “We felt a kind of a special connection with Nepal because it is a neighbour,” Das says.

The Hong Kong team raised Rs 650,000 in Hong Kong and used funding leftover from donations for the 2008 Sichuan earthquake for the Kavre project. It has also donated to Oxfam for its activities in Nepal.

Next week, after the classroom reconstruction is done, the Hong Kong students will carry out a mentorship program as well as puberty and menstrual hygiene education. One of the Hong Kong students, Phebe Ho has got attached to the Nepali children.

“They are just so simple, helpful, friendly and kind,” she says, “they may not have much but they are always willing to share and give love to each other.”

Read also:

Reconstruction in ruins, Om Astha Rai and Sahina Shrestha

Reconstruction in limbo

Winter emergency for quake survivors, Kunda Dixit

Authority to reconstruct, Om Astha Rai

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