Achieving Zero Hunger: Feeding Nepali people post-quake
-  Tika Dhoj Bhandary tells the story of the Community Kitchens -
"We fed 366 people for 31 days"
I was coming back from the famous Manakamana Temple of Gorkha district with my family and about to the reach Naubise (about 24 km from Kathmandu) I felt some unusual tremor and dust started coming out of a nearby house. I immediately asked the driver to stop the car. We all got out and felt the earthquake. We saw the collapse of the houses around the hill and suddenly a dusty cloud lifted to the sky. Then it took me 4 hours to reach my home in Bhaktapur. It usually used to take 1 and half hour. The road was completely blocked.
On April 25, in Nepal, a devastating earthquake centered in Gorkha and measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale shook half of Nepal and the subsequent aftershocks (including another powerful one of 6.7 on the Richter scale on May 12) wreaked the country and brought destruction in almost every sphere of the Nepali society including social, cultural, psychological and economic situation.
More than 8,800 people died and hundreds others are still reported missing. More than 20,000 people are severely injured. Thousands are under treatment in the hospitals. More than half a million houses have been completely destroyed.
As the earthquake severely damaged the Nepali people’s lives, the helping hands from individuals, local or international institutions and organizations reached different parts of the country for immediate rescue and relief for the quake victims.
In this situation, we, young people associated with GYFAL, TNW and Nepali Greens) held an urgent meeting to launch immediate relief operation in rural and remote areas, where the government and nongovernmental agencies’ help had not yet arrived.
Our friends provided us information about the communities where the people were suffering from hunger for four days and who at the moment had nothing to eat. The name of the VDC was Mulpani VDC of Dhading district. In particular, three communities of the VDC were completely destroyed killing 19 people and severely injuring 25 people. All the 81 houses in the communities were completely destroyed forcing people to spend days and nights on open ground without shelter.
We then launched the “Community Kitchen” program to bring the level of hunger in these communities down to zero. Our goal was to make them a Zero Hunger Communities.
We raised donations and collected food from our friends and well-wishers. We mobilized young volunteers to cook the food for the victims in the community kitchen in coordination with the victims and serve healthy, nutritious and adequate food.We formed a Kitchen Management Committee with the involvement of all the local people and under the coordination of a local young person. We set up 3 community kitchens and served 366 people of 81 homeless families.
The Kitchen Management Committee established the rule that each day four families would send a family member to be a volunteer, cooking and serving the food to all the others. Every day, the four volunteers would cook the food for all the families in need in the community. Lunch time was 9 AM - 11 AM and dinner time was 6 PM - 8 PM.These times of the day were filled with entertainment. The people in the community made dinner time into the musical hour – they would sing songs and play their folk instruments. Their gatherings for lunch and dinner at the same time and place and interacting with each other helped them to cope with the sufferings, sorrow and loss of their homes and the loved ones.
At the same time, we also ran psychological counseling camps. All the victims who lost near and dear ones said that the community kitchen not only served them with nutritious food but also provided them a place to heal their wounds.
After 31 days of serving the survivors suffering from hunger, we found that they had become psychologically and physically ready to return to their normal life. With our mission accomplished, we closed the community kitchen.
Now, the monsoon season is knocking at our door.
Even before the onset of the monsoon, the country is witnessing devastating landslides that have killed many people, sweeping off villages and destroying houses. We have now come to know that some landslide-hit communities are suffering from food shortages and hunger. We are ready to go help them again. We want to serve food to the communities damaged by the earthquake and the landslides by setting up more community kitchens. To fulfill this mission, we are in need of kind support of our friends and well-wishers.
Tika Dhoj Bhandary