The Zinc House

KIKN has identified a family with 3 children living in a steel container in the aftermath of the earthquake. The children attend Jana Sudhar school. The eldest, Aneta Anai is a small 14 year old in class 6. She speaks very good English. Both children are good students according to Raju, the teacher who accompanied us to the home visit. Both the parents are deaf and dumb. They are casual labourers. Their daily earnings, when there is work is around, £4-£5 combined.

It was a drive to the rural part of Kathmandu where the family lives. We saw the remaining evidence of the destruction caused by the earthquake. Many of the houses in central Kathmandu escaped unscathed comparatively speaking. Once you get into the outskirts, many buildings have big cracks as well as those collapsed into piles of rubble that are still dotted along the main thoroughfare.

On the way we were told that there are 11 members of the family who are living in this aluminium house. There are 3 generations, including 2 uncles, an aunt and their children. It transpired that they have difficulty finding a house/apartment with 3 rooms as many landlords are not keen to have such a large family renting a room. They have ended up in this zinc house, built with a bamboo structure inside with aluminium panels as the walls. One could see all the holes where the bamboo poles meet the aluminium frame.They are going to be cold in winter,  just like the bamboo school in Gorkha. The difference is they have grandparents who are in their 70s. It is going to be very hard for them.

Uma and I did not like the look of the building. It is very filmsy, a gust of strong wind could tear open the panels. It is situated on raised and open ground. The only good thing is there is some land to grow vegetables which they have done to be more self sufficient. It is ironical that the aluminium house is surrounded by a real fancy building being built right next door to it.

On talking to the family, I experienced for the first time the grief and sorrow of a mother who lost her young son and daughter in law during the earthquake. They were all in the house when the earthquake struck. It happened so quickly that they did not have a chance to get out. The house just collapsed with the whole family buried in it. They had to dig themselves out. Unfortunately her son and daughter in law did not make it. The aunt brought out a photo and showed us the young couple. They were probably in their early 20s. The poor woman was howling with such pain. I just didn’t know what to do or say. I touched her on her shoulder….I looked to Uma who was trying to offer some words of comfort. We both felt pretty helpless and useless (for a change).

The family was grateful for the groceries KIKN has bought for them. There were 30 kilos of rice, 5 kilos of flour, 6 litres of cooking oil and a crate of eggs. That should see them through for a little while. KIKN is also paying the rent for the zinc house until the budgetted money runs out. With the rent at 12,000 Nepali rupees a month, it will keep them going for a year. Uma stressed that the money is only for a year, and no more.

We left feeling somewhat overwhelmed….