In the Fall of 2015 TheoEco completed Phase I of its Nepal Project to assist, document, and conduct research in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes.
Like to help? All contributions are welcome...
TheoEco Institute’s founder Steve Richards and daughter Bobbie (and their cats) went to Kathmandu in the fall of 2015 to assist with the earthquake relief efforts, and document/video those efforts. What they found was different from what they expected in many ways. (Click here to see the original thinking and planning that went into Phase I).
Most poignantly was the effect of the fuel shortage (since resolved) – petrol, diesel, and LP gas – and the unofficial blockade of Nepal’s southern border by India (also since resolved); all apparently caused by Nepal’s new constitution. We have many examples of how this was affecting those in Kathmandu, and is featured in our documentaries. (Click here to see Richards out of petrol in Kathmandu).
- The devastation, though wide spread, affected mainly the poorest built homes and buildings; modern buildings were, generally speaking, lightly damaged. This shouldn't have been a surprise in retrospect as the media always shows the worst.
- Many people are without homes with no real plans, or ability, to rebuild. They are pretty much on their own, and they know it. Most are resigned to rebuilding on their own - someday. Few are expecting much from the Nepali government, or others.
- Restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and most enterprises are open for business.
In short, life moves on, even for those living in temporary housing, who may well be in their shelters for years to come.
Objective #1 - Assist the earthquake aftermath efforts
No one seemed to need the kind of help we thought we were going to provide: moving bricks, digging ditches, helping care for those in need, helping to rebuild. We offered, but no one took us up on these types of things, perhaps sensing how unsuited for such tasks we were. Instead, Steve Richards was asked to teach a course at the newly created National Theological College, which he reluctantly agreed to as he was wholly inadequate for the job - but Reverend Lama (Director of the college, Anglican priest, and father to 46 at the Nazarene Church Orphanage) insisted. Bobbie poured herself into the documentaries, blogs, and schoolwork.
Objective #2 - Documentaries
We were able to more than accomplish our objective of shooting our documentaries to record the earthquake aftermath as rebuilding should be ramping up - or as we document, not so much. We have so much footage that the three 10-minute mini-documentaries have grown into 10+ and will result in a feature documentary when all is said and done.
Piles of Bricks (Release scheduled Fall 2016 - See "Patan/Lalitpur" now)
It became obvious as soon as we drove out of Kathmandu’s airport that it would make sense to focus on the ubiquity of something very, very, common; so we focused on, and titled our first effort: “Piles of Bricks”. They are everywhere; big and small, old and new, neatly stacked or haphazardly thrown into mounds. This motif seems to work because the piles can represent one of two things: destruction or hope. And hope is what we see when we see a pile that is obviously poised for a rebuild. A messy mound signifies the opposite.
Objective #3 - Research
We are very interested in the Hindu, Buddhist, and anamist interplay with the Christians and the impact of the overall culture on economic and environmental impacts, both more broadly and specifically on the earthquake rebuilding efforts. (We have included Hindus and Buddhists in our research, interviews, and footage - and close to half of the content of our documentaries pertains to Nepal's non-Christian communities.) To this end we have begun an analysis of "Economics in the Upanishads" to go along with our Economics in the Gospels study.
We spent a good deal of our time with Christian clergy who gave us tremendous access to victims and locations we would never have seen otherwise, and they were some of the nicest people we have ever met. Not to mention the connection through the Yale Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School which provided a natural connection with the Anglicans via the Diocese in Singapore, though we were warmly received by all of the Christian community.
One of our goals is to gain insight into the Christian community in general, but a particular question we are trying to understand is why the Christian community is growing so fast in Nepal. We were fortunate to be able to interview Anglican clergy, a Methodist missionary, a former Shaman now a Protestant pastor, talk at length with an American Jesuit priest 57 years in Kathmandu, newly baptized converts, and many more. We also filmed Presbyterian and Catholic services, and did a four camera shoot of an Anglican service, including footage of the Sunday School festivities mentioned. Along these lines, we are planning a study with the National Theological College to provide hard data and a baseline for further research.
Sunday School on Saturdays
Also part of Piles of Bricks is another theme - something we were unprepared for - the burgeoning Christian community in the Kathmandu valley and their ministries to villages far and wide. We saw services and churches packed with converted Hindus and Buddhists, many recently baptized. Called “Sunday School on Saturdays” because the first service we attended, an Anglican service in Kathmandu, invited the children to "Sunday School" even though Nepalis mostly attend services on Saturday, their one day off; Sundays are regular work days. (Click here to see it now)
Several of the clergy we followed were heavily affected by the quakes and lost their homes, which we are able to document in detail – likewise many of the parishioners.
These documentaries show the state of the Kathmandu Valley and beyond at a critical time in Nepal's history when it is trying to rebuild from the earthquakes and also adapt to an evolving political landscape - all in the midst of the blockade and fuel shortages. The documentaries show what's happening both in the urban areas and the villages, including Gorkha, the epicenter of the April 25th quake. We also visited Lele, Harisiddhi, Patan/Lalitpur, and other locations, spending time interviewing and filming those that were heavily affected, and those that could speak with some authority.
Piles of Bricks - Revisited
We have more left to shoot so in the summer of 2016 we will revisit the sites and people featured in the first two documentaries to gauge how things are coming along and see what’s happening. This is something we plan to do repeatedly over time as TheoEco continues to build its relationships with the people and organizations we've already grown close to.