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

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