By Angela Harding It’s my first time in a helicopter1 and when Captain Tord Niklas asks me what I think, I instinctively reply that it’s surreal… the’ lighter than air’ sensation as we gently lift off the ground is something that you don’t experience in a fixed wing aircraft. It’s out of this world! It’s awesome!
Captain Niklas flies for Fishtail Air, the local helicopter company that MAF has been partnering with since the earthquake earlier this year. Today Captain Niklas is taking MAF Nepal Acting Country Director Alrena Martis, the newly arrived short-term MAF Nepal Administrator (me), and Nepali psychologist Binit Sharma, from Kathmandu to Kerauja in the Gorkha region.2
Kerauja is not a place for a fixed wing aircraft. It’s a large scattering of orange tarpaulins and small dwellings etched into the face of a very steep hill, and with a platform perched on a cliff edge just big enough for a helicopter. The vast majority of people are still living in tents and without power. All are without running water. But Nepali people are typically stoic and the ones who live in Kerauja are no exception. As the helicopter drops us off, the locals greet us warmly and adorn us with silk scarves. They are full of smiles and appear carefree despite their extremely difficult circumstances. Yet psychologist Binit predicts that he will find many of them suffering from post-trauma stress disorder, depression and grief. I am reminded that these people have emotional needs, just like us.Binit has been contracted by Czech NGO People in Need to provide psychological first aid to these needy communities. People in Need Protection Officer Nisha Niraula who has been working in Kerauja since the crisis began, is waiting for us when we arrive. She stays in a tent in Kerauja that has become her home away from home. Nisha works with vulnerable women, to install bathing units, toilets and solar powered lights. Her assistant Rashmita Giurung, a young local woman, carries my bag and smiles patiently as I take numerous photos of her. Rashmita’s home was completely destroyed by the earthquake too and she now lives under a tarpaulin. As we scramble up the hill to the People in Need office (another tent) we pass a makeshift school and are given a guard of honour from the local school children. The Shree Kerauja Secondary School was once one of the best in the district. It had 465 students and 12 teachers with classes from years 1 to 10. Deputy Headmaster Arjun Shrestha explains that now “The earthquake destroyed all our classrooms, furniture, educational materials needed to conduct the classes effectively.” They have to rebuild from scratch. Later, as Alrena and I sit in the mid-day sun resting and waiting for the helicopter to come back and collect us, a stream on women file past us carrying rocks for the foundation of the new school. Many of the women carry babies as well. Some even knit and spin wool as they climb. All smile and greet us as they pass. The harshness of their life is obvious and is something that I find hard to comprehend.
MAF’s operation in Nepal is clearly different to normal MAF programmes. We are not using our own aircraft, but instead use our expertise and connections to arrange, coordinate and fund helicopter transport with a reputable local company for a variety of local and international relief organisations. Dipesh Regmi, People in Need’s Main Logistician in Kathmandu says “PIN’s working experience with MAF is very positive, they (MAF) have been flexible during the emergency period and this continues until the present. MAF provides an indispensable service for PIN since we work in remote VDCs (Village Development Committees) in the upper Gorkha District.” My visit to Kerauja highlights the impact that MAF is having on these gracious Nepali people. Jesus said that “whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.” What I see in Kerauja are brothers and sisters in great need and MAF’s ministry bringing them help. That’s even more awesome than the helicopter flight!
111 December 2015 in Fishtail Air’s Eurocopter AS350 B3 (call sign 9N-AJI)
2Departing Kathmandu (KTM) at around 10am and returning at around 1.35pm for Kerauja-Gorkha Army Base-Kerauja-Prok-Kerauja-Gorkha Army Base-Solyanter-Kerauja-KTM. Alrena and I were on the KTM-Kerauja, Kerauja-Prok-Kerauja and Kerauja-KTM legs only. The flights were also to move PIN staff from one location to another as well as to move a small amount of cargo.