Our team worked on a water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) project in the Dahidamar community in Makawanpur. The majority of the community members earn a living through farming. During the time volunteers were in the community, which was cut short due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, they worked with community members to complete more than half of the project’s targets.
While in the community, I frequently talked with community members regarding their home and the work we were doing together. In a conversation with Dirgha Bahadur, the president of Water User Committee, he stressed on the importance of water in the community. According to him, “Earlier, although we had a water facility (taps) it was not sustainable due to poor technology and weak materials used to make it. Thus, after a few years, we couldn’t access the water supply. However, this time, looking at how the system is being made and the technology being used we are very optimistic that it will last at least for 2-3 decades”. He further added this project will bring massive changes in the community.
One of the eldest community members Chandra Bahadur shared that “the people seem very happy with the work and they are trying their best to adopt the good things that you’ve taught to them. The people of the community will always remember your contributions.”
Similarly, the focal person of Dahidamar community, Ganesh Bal, mentioned another change that could be seen in the community. He reviled that the “the youth of the community were (initially) reluctant to continue their studies, but due to your presence in our community we believe that the lifestyle of youth will slowly change. We need to work on breaking the bad trends that have been existing in this community and I am sure that your involvement will be able to help us.”
While in the community, we had already observed some changes but unfortunately, we had to leave the community due to the rapid onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a devastating message for all of us as we had lots of aspirations for our work with this community and we were heading in a positive direction. In the short time we were in the community, we had also become very attached to all the community members – they were our family.
After returning to Kathmandu, Dr. Brent Downes, Country Director of Raleigh International Nepal, mentioned that while we normally go to rural communities for our WASH projects and share safe hand washing and hygiene practices, it seemed that people living in cities have forgotten the importance of hand washing to keep themselves safe from the virus. I could easily see this with my friends and family. I asked them, whether they knew about the seven steps of hand washing and whether if they were implementing them in their lives? Most of them heard about it, and some of them have learned in their schools, but never practiced it. Even in my own family, almost all of them knew about the hand washing steps but had forgotten and seldom followed the steps which are so important to protect us from diseases.
Although leaving the community was bittersweet, especially since we could not complete what we aimed to, I was able to get a sense of closure. A phone call from Ganesh Gole in the community eased some of our sadness as he informed us that “they [communities members] are using water from the tap stands in their homes and other works are also nearly done.” This news made me feel that we have been able to make an impact in the community, even in the short time we had there due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic Raleigh ended the Spring 2020 ICS and Expedition programs early .
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Text by Saroj Deo