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Breaking News – part we already gave away above, but if you want to know the full message and see us in it? Watch the movie now. Even though it was not an easy decision, we decided to leave Medair after seven years…. what??? Yes! This is the announcement. Where will we go? And with whom? And when? Find it all in the movie…

This is breaking news – but what exactly will you be doing?

This is all information we will give for now, as we will first enjoy some Christmas holiday with our family, but more information will follow shortly after! Once more, because we are getting closer and closer – merry Christmas and a great start of the New Year.

If you are still thinking about sharing your blessings at the end of the year with the most vulnerable. Please share this story with people around you so that their voices are being heard, or contribute financially to Medair, or pray. Thank you so much.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2017 - by Willem and Wendy

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2017 - by Willem and Wendy

Merry Christmas

For unto us a child is born
unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder
and his name shall be called wonderful Counselor
the mighty God, the everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

We are happy that we are able to celebrate the reason for the season back home this year with our beloved family. We will only be in the Netherlands for a very short time, so we won’t be meeting with lots of people, but we will give you an update soon as new developments are on the way! So stay tuned.

When we look back into 2017, lots has happened and we look back with thankfulness in our hearts. We have been able to contribute to a well running project in Nepal where earthquake resilient houses are being built. And Wendy has traveled to Afghanistan and Bangladesh to be a voice for the most vulnerable.

We also saw lots of suffering. And while suffering is hard to explain, we would love to speak with the words of C.S. Lewis: ‘God always hears the cry of suffering, God always sees the oppression of the weak and God demands we be a people who do the same.’

We believe that when we all reach out, when we all stand up and do what God asks from us, in our neighbourhood, to our friends and family or overseas, everyone in his/her place. What beautiful would this world look. Love in action.

We wish you a prosperous and joyful 2018.

Portraits of people

Portraits. Pictures of people I don’t want to forget. In Nepal I meet many beautiful people. Inside and out.

Seeing people

Through my lens I see people in a different way sometimes – I think other photographers will understand when I’m saying this. You look into their eyes so deeply as you’re taking the pictures – you want to portray them as they are. Almost always I show the portrait pictures to them afterwards and if they don’t like them, I delete them. The following pictures made it through… and I want you to see them. I want you to recognise them.

Portraits of people in a forgotten crises

I want you to see the story of a people that lived in very difficult circumstances, in a crises that is largely forgotten and where more than 600,000 houses have been declared inhabitable. Only a small part of them have been rebuild so far. And researchers say a new heavy earthquake might occur in the next years. A race against time. I hope the portraits speak a thousand words to you too. For all the pictures below I did not use a filter or programme to alter them, they are the original pictures as I took them with my camera.

Portraits - picture of Dolma Tamang and her husband in front of their new earthquake resilient house. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

The glow that made her face shine like the sun

Remember Dolma Tamang? I wrote about her in April when she was still living in her shed. Now I took portraits of her and her husband in front of their new earthquake resilient house. I love this picture as you can see how happy they are. They could not stop thanking everyone who helped them – so thank you too if you contributed to building those safe houses! More money is still needed to build the 1,263 houses that we want to build – so if you still want to see more of these smiles, please consider donating to Medair Nepal.

Portraits - shop owner who asked me to take his picture. He wears a typical Nepali hat, the Nepali Topi. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

Nepali Topi

This shop-owner asked me to take his picture. I was happy that he simply continued to lean against the doorpost, without overly posing, but continued the way I met him. He wears the typical Nepali hat, the Nepali Topi ((Nepali: ढाका टोपी). The Nepali Topi is popular among hilly Nepalis. The topi is worn as a symbol of national pride and national dress. Portraits - mother and child walking through Bijulikot, Ramechhap, Nepal. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

I loved it when this child looked straight in my lens and the mother seemed more interested in the discussion that was going on between several shop-owners. I love seeing how moms all over the world are very inventive in the way they carry their children. Her other child (you only see very little of her) holds her skirt, while walking along with them.

Portraits - woman carrying leaves/bamboo for her cattle. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

The strength of a woman

The female are incredibly strong. These bamboo leaves and grass for her cattle might have not weighed as much as the rocks she had to carry to build her new earthquake resilient house, but still… and while talking to me and the translator she didn’t take it off her head, she just started talking to us while holding it and smiled a lot of times.

Portraits. Woman thanking us for her earthquake resilient house with a smile. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

Thank you – thank you – thank you!

Unfortunately I stood at the other side when she told our technical engineers that she was so happy with her new house. So you cannot see the new house unfortunately. But I promise you to show some of the new houses in a next post. But this broad smile, full of gratitude – just thought you should see it.

Portraits - Woman: I'm always happy. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

Sirmala Tamang – I’m happy all the time

This lady is very special. She’s called Sirmala Tamang and is 28 years old. She’s one of the ladies that started to convince the community how much better these new earthquake resilient building techniques were. And now her own house is finished. She says: it’s nice. It’s so much better than before. It is strong. Last year was very difficult as water entered our cottage all the time and we got sick often. This house is dry and safe. I’m happy all the time. What makes me sad is the earthquake, but other than that – I’m happy all the time. She again taught me that we don’t need a lot of things to be happy. We need security/safety, and people around us. We need hope.

Portraits - child Parpatti Tamang - is fixing her hair. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

Parpatti

When I captured a portrait of Parpati this time, she was in a much different mood than last time, see photo above and below. You can see the photo I took months earlier with her grandfather on our former website. Now she was sick. She just came back from the hospital. It took five hours on foot to get there. Can you imagine her mood?

Portraits - Very intense picture of Parpatti Tamang who's sick and just had to walk five hours to get to the hospital. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

Portraits - close up portrait picture of Padma Budathoki. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

Portraits of Family Budathoki

This is Padma Kumari Budathoki, a woman I wrote about earlier, as did Gerhard Wilts of the Dutch Daily. A woman with a lot of resilience. Her husband (see portrait picture below) has a kidney disease. When they were still living in their shed, life was very hard on them. Padma didn’t know how to get through life with her husband being so sick and having no safe place to take shelter from the heavy rains and cold. Now she and her husband can breathe again as they have a safe home. Their portraits speak worlds to me.

Portraits - portrait picture of Mr. Budathoki, who has a kidney disease. He wears the typical Nepali hat, the Nepali Topi. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

Portraits of children

Portraits - Children are so resilient and I love to see their smiles. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

The above and below portraits of kids show me hope, over and over again. Their smiles. The ‘wonder in this world’ they still seem to see. Their power to overcome disasters in life. The resilience and happiness they take from the small things in life. God has made us in His image. Worrying didn’t add a single day to our lives. Children somehow seem to understand that. And I cannot get enough – taking their portraits.

Portraits - three children playing with each other and giving me their smiles. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

Portraits - picture of a child saying the traditional Nepali greeting 'Namaste'. ©Medair/Wendy van Amerongen

 

Balancing on a tree-trunk - difficult to travel roads

Difficult, difficult, difficult. During our holidays we laughed out loud when we heard the song of Dutch comedian Brigitte Kaandorp: I have a very tough life (sorry only in Dutch). But at the moment, there’s not much to laugh about if you look at the situation in the world and a lot of people are in real difficult and very tough circumstances. A lot of people have a very tough life. I cried a lot a couple of times. But despite my compassion that might be good because at least I can still feel anything, people need more of my action.

A quote from our colleague…

My colleague Elisabeth Ahlquist worded it beautifully, so I won’t take effort to write something myself, but I will just quote her:

‘This is one of those weeks when each day seems like an onslaught: Hurricane Irma (which has Haiti in its sights, a nation still rebuilding from March’s devastating hurricane); the brutality of the Myanmar military on the Rohingya; Trump’s rescission of DACA; N. Korea and it’s hydrogen bomb tests; publication of studies revealing micro-plastics in our water; wildfires raging; civil wars continue in South Sudan, Syria, DRC, and Yemen; millions forcibly displaced from their homes due to violence and insecurity; 20 million people are threatened by man-made food emergencies…

It’s a real cluster cuss and sometimes hope seems hard to hold. But I cling to hope on behalf of those taking the full force of the onslaught.’

How do we bring hope and change?

That is what we have to do. Cling to hope and think about how we can give hope to the people in these extremely difficult circumstances. What can you do? Do you give time in prayer? Or by stabbing your hands dirty? Do you give some of your money to organisations that bring hope in these circumstances? Do you give your heart? Dear people, sometimes the situation is overwhelming and we cannot take this any longer. But please, promise me we won’t forget them all. Take one of those situations in your heart and support them in a way that is possible for you. Let’s bring hope!

Fortunately there are also a lot of good things happening. Like here in Nepal: So it’s about time for a few new blogs.
To stick with the word ‘difficult’ we will show you something in this blog about the difficult roads we travel in Nepal. A challenge, but nothing we can’t overcome.

For about 160 kilometer, we driver about seven or eight hours

The roads in Nepal to our project are a challenge. Especially when it rains and storms, but even if it’s dry, the potholes are quite a trial. The route is only about 160 kilometers, but we take about seven to eight hours to get there! Below you’ll find two small video’s of the potholes (who don’t show that well – you just had to be there actually) in the road. Oh and holding my phone is also a challenge in itself… :-).

The next video might show it even better…

Hiking for hours in the difficult to reach areas

When we arrive at the outskirts of the project, we have to hike for hours sometimes from the one cluster of houses to the other. For me this feels like ‘holidays’ because the area is beautiful, but if you do this day in, day out in all kind of weather circumstances like rain and cold, to reach the most vulnerable, than that is very tiring and difficult. And I have the utmost respect for my colleagues who work there.

Do you see the beautiful environment? It’s great, but there are no roads that you can reach by car… our colleagues do everything by foot! Respect. Now the sun was shining, but they are also going when it’s freezing cold or when it rains. Do you see the blue roofs? Almost all of them are new, earthquake resilient homes. Can you imagine seeing this makes us extremely happy? We may support a full village to built earthquake resilient homes. And a village is a lot more of those hills. 1,263 houses in total. You only see about 15 to 20 in this picture… can you imagine? 🙂 Almost 200 are finished now!

You can see the beautiful but difficult to reach areas. See the blue roofs? Those are Medair earthquake resilient houses. All respect for the staff as there are no roads for cars to reach those houses, everything is done on foot. You can see the beautiful but difficult to reach areas. See the blue roofs? Those are Medair earthquake resilient houses. All respect for the staff as there are no roads for cars to reach those houses, everything is done on foot.

And then there are the slippery bridges that consist of a tree or if you’re lucky two tree-trunks. The steep slopes, the many leeches during the rainy season that stick to your skin and try to get your blood. Respect… a lot of respect for my colleagues.

You can see the beautiful but difficult to reach areas. Crossing a river on just a slippery tree is just one of the challenges. All respect for the staff as there are no roads for cars to reach those houses, everything is done on foot.

How trained masons changed her live…

It is a hot and dusty day in Bijulikot. The clouds are clutching together and form thunderheads in the distance. I know I have to rush back to the place where we come from, so that the car can safely return to our base before a heavy thunderstorm will make passing the very steep and slippery road almost impossible. But an elderly lady who caught my eye earlier looks at me and I just have to speak to her; she is working around a shed, which I hope is for her animals. But I don’t see any animals around and I would later find out it is her ‘home’. I feel an immense urge to talk to her. But Kiran, Sr. Technical Officer with Medair, says: ‘She’s deaf, so she will not be able to hear you.’

Dolma Tamang working around her temporary home.

She smiles when she looks at me. One of her eyes looks like it is completely gone, hidden in the numerous wrinkles in her face. The photographer with us quietly takes some photos from a distance, capturing the serene moments.

Dolma Tamang – portrait picture

I don’t just pass by… 

Her deafness doesn’t discourage me from going to her. I want to be with her, show her that I care. That I don’t just pass by to look at the progress. I ask Kiran if it is okay to see the shed. He says that this is no problem. So I show her with my body language that I want to get in. She makes a very kind gesture and another big smile shines from her face. I take off my shoes, as this is usual tradition when you enter a Nepali home. I step onto a sandy floor and when I enter the room, I can only make two steps forward, as to the right of me is some kind of stove (actually more or a pile of wood and charcoal with a pan on top) and the roof above it is blackened. In front of me are some clothes on a pile covered with a plastic sheet, diagonally opposite is a mat on the floor, which they seem to use as their ‘couch’ and behind that, the bed.

She sits down and a few moments later, I find myself next to her, holding her hand in her temporary home: encouraged to see the glow on Dolma’s face. She does not seem desperate, even in that cold, damp, dark little space where you cannot even stand up straight. On the contrary, her face is glowing and I learn later it is because soon she will not live in the cold shed anymore, she will move to her earthquake-resilient home–just like her son, whose house was finished under Medair’s technical guidance just days earlier.

Wendy, holds Dolma Tamang’s hand and sits with her in her temporary home: encouraged to see the glow on Dolma’s face.

After we share this moment of serenity together just in silence, as I know she’s deaf and she wouldn’t understand me anyway as we speak different languages, I thank her with my smile and stand up to move on. I ask Kiran a bit more about her. He talked often with her and her husband to convince them to build an earthquake-resilient house. I learned that Dolma’s husband was at first skeptical about building an earthquake-resilient house, as he thought they would not be able to do it within the amount of funding provided and he did not want to get into debt. However, Medair convinced him to proceed. We trained their son, Biju, in earthquake-resilient techniques, and he is now one of the skilled masons. Biju’s house was finished recently and now that his parents are convinced it will work for them, he will help build their house too.

While I walk back through the little village with the houses scattered over a very steep and hilly area, I am filled with a sense of thankfulness and hope. Medair’s presence will bring change. This village will rise from the devastating earthquake and return stronger, more united and filled with hope. The clouds are still tremendous, but the sun has cracked a big hole in them that is getting larger and wider. It reminds me of the glow on Dolma’s face, which makes her face shine like the sun. There’s hope. And hope always pierces through darkness; hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness and difficult moments one must go through.

Dolma Tamang ‘thanking’ me with a ‘Namaste’ – Nepali greeting.

All photos in this post copyright to the amazing photographer and colleague Tamara Berger