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Sarandon becomes a part of rebuilding Nepal




KATHMANDU: Along with Buddhist nuns, Nepali celebrities and media — Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon stepped out of Druk Pema Karpo Clinic, Ramkot on May 24. A little walk on the red dusty road, she went uphill and towards the two-storied concrete house with cracks. Behind the house was a land with trees that bore fruits and some vegetables plants, plastic chairs had been arranged for the seating. Everyone took their seats. Sarandon took one in the front row. A little further in front of her was a mud-and-stone house in terrible state. What lied was — bits and parts of what used to be a home.

That house belongs to the April 25 earthquake survivor 77-year-old Saili Tamang. She is a widow and lost her son during the earthquake. Sarandon was there to inaugurate Tamang’s new house of steel structure.

Academy Award winner Sarandon has come to Nepal to join Live to Love International in the effort to help restore and rebuild Nepal and Nepalis who are affected by the catastrophic earthquake. The ‘Live to Love Messenger of Light’ along with Live to Love volunteers will be on the off-road missions to deliver food and supplies to the quake affected isolated and underserved regions.

“I am very excited to be here with you and to be a part of the project. This is my first trip to Nepal. I had a plan to be here anyway and then the earthquake came. So, we postponed a little bit. His Holliness (The Gyalwang Drukpa) had told me what a wonderful country this is. I was so looking forward to visiting,” she expressed at the event.

She further mentioned that she is “very eager to go back to the USA and explain to people there that — there has been an enormous amount of damage that we have seen through the news but there is also an enormous amount of movement to rebuild. And what I like about this project is that everyone gets to rebuild their homes, to have the possession of their homes and make safer homes than they were before and the way they want them to be designed. This is a very special way to go about restoring the homes you have lost.”

In front of the battered house of Tamang, three metal beams had been erected. The beams were connected by red ribbons and Sarandon inaugurated the house by cutting the ribbon. Tamang’s house is one of the 201 ‘Live to Love’ homes now being built across nine villages of Ramkot. About the new house Tamang expresses, “We have been living in the open space since the earthquake destroyed our house. The new house that they are going to build would be better than the open space we are living in right now.”

Another house was also inaugurated on May 24. It was of Nirmaya Tamang. It was few minutes’ walk from Druk Pema Karpo Clinic. There, Sarandon was welcomed with a garland and bouquet of flowers. Sarandon and Nirmaya had a little chat.

Nirmaya is “happy” about the upcoming new home. She lost her “husband and nine-year-old daughter. My son saved me when the house collapsed on us but couldn’t save others. Nobody came to rescue us and I feel bad about it”. Moving ahead from the disastrous experience, she is now living in a temporary shelter made of tin, nearby.

Work has already started for her new house — piles of rubbles of her old house have been removed to build a new one.

And Sarandon is glad to “see the beginning of one of the safer homes and I hope you can build many before the monsoon comes”. Also, she said that she will be back once more houses are built. In the meantime, she is going to “take some photos of the beautiful places that tourists can still visit so that everyone back in the US know that Nepal is still open to the visitors. And we can bring tourists here”.

With so many homeless people and monsoon in the picture, these homes are being erected expeditiously with on-ground partners — Panchakanya Group and Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Nepal. And the houses have been designed by experts in accordance with UN approved guidelines.

Inspiring words and more

— Of Nepal and from what she has seen and what is needed here, “There are lots of groups and people who are raising money. And it is important to make sure that the money is spent well. People are throwing money and they don’t know where it is going exactly.”

— “Danger exists that money disappears. That is why it is very important to find a group to bring things in yourself and not just send them, and make sure they go to someone who is hands on,” she opines.

— When she went to Haiti (2010), “people were donating their hearts for the broken and Red Cross spent very little of it. Nobody knows where it went. And coming here is a “great way to see what is happening and how it is being built”.

— What she likes about the group she is working with is — “they are making new houses very quickly by giving people infrastructure and then allowing them by recycling the bricks, doors and windows from their old house to make specifically theirs”.

— She is a “flashlight” which she explains as, “Celebrity is a like a flashlight like you can put some light and people can have five minutes in the news and sparks something.”

— She became friends with His Holliness when she interviewed him few years ago. They kept in touch. And “every time, I planned a trip, my daughter was having a baby or something came up in the last minute. I couldn’t leave USA”. She was supposed to come to Nepal before but the earthquake hit “two day before I was supposed to come”.

She postponed her trip and came down to Nepal after finishing her work. “Whenever there is a disaster, you should only visit when you can bring something of help and not a mouth that somebody has to care of,” she states.

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