On 25 April 2015, Nepal experienced the first of its devastating earthquakes which left over 9000 dead and hundreds of thousands of homes and communities destroyed. Chris Gibbings, representative from GENOA from Australia was invited by the ecovillage network in Nepal to come and give a hand. Sunni Dawson reports.
Chris arrived before the third (some know it as the second!) major earthquake to hit the country: “It was a scary experience for sure. Seeing the ongoing trauma of people in Nepal, just waiting, immobilised by fear and devastation, was very hard. I wanted to contribute in a meaningful way in Nepal.”
Chris quickly became involved in many community projects throughout Nepal. One of them was NexUs Culture Nepal / LASANAA. He wanted to contribute his skills to a community that mirrored the values of the ecovillage network, one that promoted the focus on local community building and inclusive decision-making practices, promoting environmental sustainability and reducing, re-using and recycling waste, cultural and spiritual diversity and holistic educational practices.
NexUs Culture Nepal is one such community centre. Established in 2007 as LASANAA, a non-hierarchical artivist organisation promoting social change, it has recently morphed into a 3 storey multidimensional space for local and international communities to gather to extend thought; promote equality in a country that is steeped in social inequity; promote recycling, reducing, organic farming and environmentally sustainable practices; and support healing from trauma and social change through holistic education, story telling and engagement.
Chris felt NexUS was a natural fit and an organisation that he could help extend his knowledge and skills to, from his experiences in developing and running an ecovillage in Australia. Since the earthquake, with Chris’s help, NexUs has run a myriad of programs that have contributed to Nepal in countless ways, including:
1. Developing a creative healing program for several severely earthquake-affected communities including: Kathmandu, Sankhu, and Sindupalchowk. Creative healing and Inner Dance Global with the leadership of Pi Villaraza, assisted over 600 people in one week in June 2015. For the subsequent weeks and months since June, NexUs has conducted many creative healing and inner dance programs for key volunteer organisations conducting valuable work throughout Nepal and in Kathmandu itself. Some comments from the ongoing healing programs include:
‘I felt like I had a new life after the session.’
‘Its the most effective/powerful meditation session I’ve ever done.’
‘I travelled to the moon and back.’
2. Developing a program based on a contemporary version of a Nepalese religious traditional practice of xamaa pujaa, a prayer for commemoration and healing. The aim was to provide a space for the community to creatively heal: the self, the community and the place (it was held in Kathmandu Durbar Square which is the central religious and cultural place for the community that was severely destroyed in the earthquake). Some comments from the Durbar Square performance include:
“I found it very powerful to come here, Durbar Square, which holds such spiritual significance to us, and be part of expressing in this way. It really has meant a lot to me.” –Nepali Artist
“I was so impressed when I saw people really engaging in the painting and space, it’s different from what I have seen other community groups do before. People haven’t participated in the other ones I’ve seen, but they participated in this, young and old alike! And the messages people wrote on the canvases was really beautiful. I loved seeing that everyone was included, the homeless, everyone!”
–A local volunteer
3. Developing a eco-mud building program teaching Kathmandu youth techniques of natural mud building. A wall was built at the centre and plans for more rooms around NexUs and Kathmandu are occurring. A comment from these workshops: ‘I have learnt so much, I am beginning to understand recycling and sustainability now. I never knew how important it was.’
4. The development of long term projects in Sankhu and Kathmandu with youth leaders in these areas to assist in the ongoing trauma of their communities, the pressures of underemployment, creatively and strategically envisioning their futures.
5. Developing educational workshops that focus on healing, releasing trauma, developing thought, promoting equality, women’s empowerment and valuing the unique experiences of Nepali peoples.
NexUs has a myriad of other programs that are less earthquake focussed, but contribute to building healthy, sustainable and reflective communities in Nepal. These include: workshop spaces for anyone to use, an organic vegetable market, an art & book cafe which aims to be a social entrepreneurship venture, children’s art camp for disadvantaged youth, promoting reading in Nepal through book launches and discussions, and an artist in residency program.
The expertise that Chris brought NexUs was critical in enabling the focus and flourishing of the above programs that have been so inspiring and effective for so many Nepali people of all ages. In NexUs’s opinion, there is so much that ecovillagers can offer in disaster situations that embrace and promote the ideals of the world’s ecovillage communities, and we are so grateful for this help.
If you want to donate to this project, find us on: https://lasanaa.wordpress.com/donate-us/.