12th October 2016

The challenges of working in Nepal

As we reach the end of a long monsoon in Nepal, we wanted to highlight some of the extraordinary challenges our field team face in the line of duty.

Months of rain have been a welcome sight for the millions of Nepali people who rely on agriculture to survive. Sadly, however, the rains also herald a wave of disaster, causing dozens of lethal floods and landslides across the country.

In particular, Nepal’s already limited transport infrastructure takes a heavy hit. Roads can be washed away from the Himalayan slopes while entire bridges collapse into raging waters below.

Work must go on…

For our field team, that means braving the conditions and heading out to remote Himalayan villages to visit our pensioners and projects. With ageing veterans and widows who are increasingly unable to visit us to seek aid, this is only going to become more common.

Our field staff are all too familiar with the trials of getting around in Nepal. Often, when private vehicles are not available, staff make use of the Nepali public transport – cramped and frustratingly irregular.

Travel can be an excruciatingly slow process, with hours spent crawling along at 10 mph. Roads snake around the mountainside and are often far too rough to move at any speed. The poor conditions, coupled with hazardous driving habits, lead to frequent tragedies.

Rest is also out of the question. Driving in Nepal is an exhausting experience. Of course, walking is also a big part of field trips. Roads only extend so far before hours, even days of trekking on steep slopes await.

The challenges we face

We can’t avoid this travel and it presents a number of challenges. With such a widespread group of beneficiaries in isolated areas, it takes an enormous amount of our time just to visit them to provide financial and medical assistance.

When it comes to community aid, it can take extraordinary efforts to transport building materials. In many remote areas, resources have to be carried by individual porters to reach a construction site. This means an increase in both time and cost.

While this is the only option we have to carry out our work, the safety of our staff is of paramount importance to us. Fortunately, our team is experienced at dealing with such conditions – particularly our drivers.

We also strive to be as efficient as possible. As you might imagine, finding your way through the hill paths of Nepal can be difficult and we make use of our extensive local knowledge.

How can you help?

One of the measures we’ve taken to improve our delivery is the increased use of motorbikes – capable of dealing with Nepal’s terrain. Ex-Gurkha Major Yam Gurung, now leading our efforts in Tanahun District, recently summed up the impact of these vehicles:

“Just returned back from a field trip visiting 2 school projects and 6 house rebuilds today. Our new motorbikes were vital to the efficiency of this trip. We travelled around 65km off-road and 30km on the highway to complete these visits. Without the bikes the same trip would have taken at least a week.”

Many of our bikes were provided thanks to the generosity of individual donors or groups. This kind of gift dramatically improves our service delivery and the lives of our staff. It also allows us to spend more of our general funds directly on charitable activities.

The bikes we use cost around £2,600. If you’re able to help us with the purchase of more bikes for our remote locations, please contact us on 01722 343 102 or via info@gwt.org.uk.

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