Japanese student volunteer - Rehabilitation in Kedarnath
May 30, 2015 — Uttarakhand, India
February 2015, Uttarakhand, India
In 2013 Uttarakhand, North India faced tragic flooding and landslides. The destruction was overwhelming with more than 5500 people killed and many more left homeless. Embracing The World volunteers swung into action very soon and are still at work helping the many survivors with the after-effects of the calamity.
Sixty three students from Japan were in Uttarakhand in February 2015 for a second time to help in the Chandrapuri Rehabilitation project in Kedarnath. Embracing the World has teamed up with International Volunteer University Students Association (IVUSA) of Japan for over 15 years. Every year a groups of around 100 volunteers from IVUSA have helped in the rehabilitation housing projects of Embracing the World.
This year Embracing the World's focus shifted to long term educational needs of the survivors after the immediate-term relief efforts of the last year. The Chandarapuri relief project will help to rebuild the dark and cramped tin classrooms that were setup as temporary measures. Initially the project would focus on the demolition of the old classroom buildings and then rebuilding modern classrooms in the same site with new school furniture.
IVUSA volunteers spent the initial days clearing the area of rocks, wood and metal as they demolished the old school buildings taking care to dismantle in such a way that all the materials can be re-used to build the new classrooms. The students spent many hot days carrying sand, brick and gravel from the road below up steep paths to the school site. Though the heat and dust made the work hard the students were cheerful as they got the supplies up to the building site. Even rain could not deter them as they spent the rainy days inside building 56 sets of tables and benches for the school.
The students also spent time with the villagers participating in local holidays and celebrations including Holi the festival of colors. It was a coming together of cultures and brought many smiles to those they were serving. The exuberance and energy of the students was infectious and many local youth joined the students and volunteered as well. Apart from celebrating Holi, the students bathed in the icy cold water of the nearby Mandakini river, had their first taste of vegetarian curry and practiced yoga with the Himalayas around them.
Even though physical comforts such as hot water and electricity were lacking and spotty the IVUSA volunteers served selflessly. Many of them had paid for their flight tickets with their savings and did not earn credit for the volunteer hours. One student asked a local village woman, "What do you think of us Japanese students volunteering here? What else can we do to serve you?" She replied "Your hard work is very inspiring. We appreciate you coming here, we all are so happy to see you. Please come again so that we can see your smiles. We do not need anything else; thank you so much for your effort." The students felt great contentment in giving selflessly and came away feeling rewarded with the uplifting experience of serving those in need.