While Natasha often appears in articles and on podcasts, Bibek plays an equally important role in the organization as co-founder of the project and the director of everything that happens on the ground in Nepal. Here is his experience and story of the aftermath of the earthquake, how he came to start the rebuilding efforts in Rainaskot, and what it has been like to devote a year and a half to this work.
What was it like to be away from Nepal when the earthquake occurred?
· -At the time when earthquake occurred, I was at my hostel in India. It was Saturday and I was about to prepare the morning lunch. I was applying for a job in Nepal as my final exam just finished. As a follow up, I tried calling my friend living in Kirtipur (Near Kathmandu) through Viber. While on the phone he said “the land is shaking”, and I could hear nothing after that. The call was disconnected.
Then I followed up with the news, guessing that it must be an earthquake. As I read I understood, it was an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude. It was a terrible feeling, I started sweating and then immediately tried calling my parents first, as I read the epicenter is near to the place where they live. I could not reach them and nor my friends and other relatives in the country. I was so worried about losses all over my country. Over and over, I tried refreshing the news feed to get the latest updates. I was picturing my place, the image of my family, friends and people in my country.
Later, I tried gathering my friends living in other hostels and we stayed together scrolling the news feed, trying to console each other. On the third day around 3 am at night, I could only contact my parents! Huge relief, but still I was worried about the people as death toll was rising and relief works had not started yet.
I tried reaching people living abroad and on the day of earthquake, I received a message from Natasha trying to get updates about Nepal.
Later we planned about sending relief supplies. For that I wrote people living abroad, did fundraising program in Vishakhapatnam (India),asked people for money.
Also interesting was that our hostel was covered by Indian media, trying to get updates and everyone was concerned about me as my home was near to epicenter. I gave interview to 9 media channels including televisions.
What did you find when you went to villages to deliver relief supplies?
· A week after the earthquake, alongside my friends living in India, with the help of Natasha and amount we had collected during fundraiser in India, we brought the basic relief supplies including tents, medicines, basic foods, sanitary materials in Nepal. The situation was scary. I was crying all over the journey as I could see the tired eyes of people, hoping for aftershocks to stop and to get the necessary reliefs.
We tried delivering in hard hit Areas of Lamjung and Gorkha in the beginning. Everywhere we went, we just heard from people asking more, I could clearly see frustration in the eyes of people. Their bodies looked so tired, eyes soaked with tears, the face looked fearful but still they had a glimpse of smile on their face when we were giving away the supplies from what we had.
The people were asking about what next and they had no clue what they will do next. They were just waiting for aftershocks to stop and some people still had not got connected with their relatives living abroad. For supplying relief, we reached many hard hit areas and the only thing I found was people have not given up, they had hope on getting recovered soon. While delivering supplies I was asked by many for building their homes as they had nothing left.
When the villagers asked about reconstruction, did you imagine how it would come together?
No way, I was worried if I can work out on fulfilling their hopes. But I was given a boost by my friends living abroad and I could see people willing to support.
So as I returned home after relief work, I could not sleep and dreamed about building homes in some areas. I tried making many plans on how to collect funds to build house, I tried finding out the low cost model, I started writing out my friends at midnight to all day. I did not even used to notice the time there but all I used to say was “I am told about building a village and I am determined now, so can you please help me in this?” The YES answer from Natasha made me feel that I can do it so I started working on it.
Why did you decide to start a project from nothing rather than joining an established organization?
Because I could feel people’s emotions and I had heard their stories, I saw people smiling even in crisis and hoping that they will be recovered. So I believe as a youngster, if not me who else, and if not now, when, and if not here, where! I questioned this to myself many times while going for the reliefs.
I was so determined about leading the project as I was asked by people if I can help them inbuilding homes, I knew if I join established organization, neither I can lead or reach those people in need. Also I was confident; I can lead as I was aware of the scenario. I could not feel the earthquake but could feel the impact it made in people's life and I became determined-I am going to lead and I will commit my time to do it.
Also I had a very interesting circle and support from my friends and families, they trusted in my capacity and believed in me.
Were you surprised by the donations coming from the US?
Not at all in the beginning as the news was in headlines, but I was a bit surprised as the donations came in even after months when the news headline was something else. I have no words to appreciate their efforts, really thankful.
What do you imagine is the motivation for the donors, especially ones with no connection to Nepal?
We always have seen the cruel face of humanity about loss of lives, refugee crisis, wars and all everywhere but while receiving donations I realized the beautiful face of HUMANITY exists, despite any religion, race, tribe, geographical location or anything.
So I believe people are tired of these inhumane behaviors and they want to get rid of all this and help the people in need. I have a conviction our donors have same motivation, they want to help and also they have a faith in us that we can do it.
You have made personal sacrifices to work on the rebuilding project, what has that been like for you?
I have understood personal satisfaction is the greatest happiness and I am really proud and satisfied with what I am doing. With my sacrifice, if many others are benefitting, why should I not? It sounds philosophical but that is what I have understood.
If my sacrifice can bring smiles on those faces whom I met while supplying relief, why should I not go for it. Sometimes I do feel "what am I doing?", as I can see my friends working at some reputed organizations, pursuing degrees in prestigious universities but I get message from them mentioning “I wish I was you”. That just brings a smile on my face and motivates me to be more dedicated and committed.
What has been your greatest reward?
What else than The ‘wish I was you’ response from my Friends and relatives!
What has been your most rewarding moment in your relationship with the villagers?
The overwhelming response when I get when I am there. I have never felt that I am far away from my family staying here. The villagers have been like my family and they have treated me like I have been there for a long time.
How do you deal with the constant challenges and doubts that the work can be completed?
· I am very open minded person so I tried to listen to everyone. When I am in the village, I go and meet every individual house and ask them what they feel. The best way to get rid of any difficulties and challenges is to be in touch with people more often.
I try to be clear on everything, if I am facing any odds or difficulties; I share that with Natasha and ask if she can help.
Whenever I have doubt, I do often ask the villagers if we can work this way.
To overcome the challenges, I have been adopting the technique of sharing everything, I sit with villagers every time I go, have fun with them, try to make them familiar with the challenges and circumstances and ask them for any possible remedies. I have to say I am lucky as well as the villagers have patience and also are very open minded, who share everything they feel with me.
After a year and a half, we are getting close to finishing Rainaskot. We need your support for our final campaign, so that the villagers will all be in their new homes this winter.
Lend a hand here: www.rebuildnepal.today