The Down’s School Buffalo

How a school in Bristol brought a buffalo to help an earthquake devastated family with a thalassaemic child.

There is no doubt that I have been very blessed in my life to have been able to enjoy the many adventures that I have but the one I experienced yesterday was quite different and I have to say incredibly humbling, one I will never ever forget.

After the earthquake Taal’s school, The Downs at Wraxhall, Bristol, UK started to raise funds for the families I care for here in Nepal. Mrs Bray organised a bike ride for the Pre-Prep children and an expedition to climb Everest via the main school stairway was set for the Prep School.

Quite incredibly, enough money was raised to buy a buffalo for a family who not only lost their home but all their livestock too. Whilst back in Bristol I set out to buy the buffalo and then organise a mission to deliver it to its new home. Kamal Tamang is a poor farmer and very sadly has 2 boys who are very sick with Thalassaemia.

His life is incredibly hard. After the earthquake Kamal took some finance with the bank to buy a buffalo as his family cannot survive without one. The milk, butter, yoghurt and manure it provides is essential to their daily life. He was only able to afford the cheapest buffalo and very sadly it produces only the smallest amount of milk. This has been a devastating blow for the family.

After much deliberation is was decided that we would buy a buffalo for Kamal and his family. I had no idea just how logistically difficult it would be as I didn’t realise that Kamal lived so far away from the civilisation of Kathmandu. Finally after all the months of planning yesterday Durga, my nurse, Rishi, Taal, Subash Kharki our incredible camera man and I set off long before the sun came up to achieve our mission. We drove for hours and then left the car and started to walk … Up and down … down and up along the endless dusty mountain track with the 32 degree sun shining on us …. There is no such thing as flat in the Himalayas. We were told to look for the school and Kamal would be waiting for us … This is what we saw … The school completely destroyed by the earthquake. only the door was still standing. Had the quake happened on any other day than a Saturday (Nepal’s Holy Day) it is said than more than 40,000 more children would have died as more than 3000 school’s were destroyed across the Gorkha District.

As planned Kamal was there waiting for us and our beautiful buffalo was walking ahead to its new home. We passed thought what I can only describe as total devastation … There was not a single stone building left standing … Now all we could see was lines of tin shacks with tarpaulins flapping over the top of them. As we passed through one village we met a 90 old man sitting alone on a broken and filthy bed in his sweltering hot tin home. His wife of 70 years was killed in the quake and his home destroyed …. It was at this point my heart cried so deeply I cannot explain.

Finally after hours of walking Kamal signalled to show us his village … Paha Khola …. Before us was a sea of tin perched on a hill more than 2000 meters up teetering on the edge of the world. One has to wonder how people ever came to live in such a desolate place. We walked on in with Kamal and his new buffalo and were greeted by the whole village. Kamal’s Thalassaemic boys Ayush (8years) and Aashis (5years) were easy to spot in their bright orange tee shirts. Ayush was looking particularly sick, his head now enlarged and his tummy distended. The Kelfer medicine we have been providing Ayush with no longer works and he desperately requires the much more expensive Desirox Chelation medicine. At £500.00 per year it is just a dream. As soon as I get back to the UK I am going to do my best to give Ayush a pain free last few years of his life and the chance of prolonged life by raising the funds to pay for his medicine.

So finally our dear buffalo “Tolla” (meaning down in Nepali) was settled and we were able to sit and chat with the villagers. Every house in Kamals village was destroyed. Ayush was trapped under the rubble of his his house for hour’s before his father was able to dig him out. It took weeks for aid of tin and tarpaulins to arrive due to there being no flat land for a helicopter to land. Somehow life has continued and the villagers are now settled in their tin huts but the bitter winds and soaring heats are a daily challenge. The government has promised every family that lost their home a 2 Lakh (£1300.00) payout from the enormous World Earthquake Fund Money but still nothing has been received and with the condition that one must not start building a new home until “Building Specifications” have been agreed millions will see another monsoon in their tin huts. We now plan to help Kamal and his family rebuild their house with funds from our earthquake appeal. It will not be a quick fix but instead will take time. We will be keep a close eye on Kamal, his wife, Ayush and Aashis from now on offering them as much support as we can.

So here we are at the end of our enormous journey, enlightened, humbled and deeply touched. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every person who has supported me in my mission. Without your help I would not be able to continue taking care of all the children in our clinic. I am deeply grateful. Some how by hook or by crook we seem to just about keep going!

I would like to say a very special thank you to Elaine Miller and the U.K. Thalassaemia Society who’s support is a pillar of strength to us here at Nepal Thalassaemia Society.