A few months have passed since the earthquake in Nepal, but the Bridge Fund continues to support local charities and groups in the community there.One project we are accepting donations for is the Swayambunath community –helping artisans, the monastics and pujaris and local community rebuild their lives. Many of those on the ground helping rebuild the community are monks and nuns.The Swayambunath Fund will use its funds to rebuild retreat houses, monasteries, stupa and shrine rebuilding, and help families affected by providing food, shelter, and medical care. One specific project The Swayambunath Fund is taking on is The Retreat House Project. It is for the purpose of restoring five houses for practitioners to retreat and live in a secluded, holy area. The buildings were originally built in the 1930′s. Since that time, nuns, monks, and lay practitioners have been using the buildings despite the houses being in various states of dilapidation. Two of the houses have become completely unlivable and the other three, if not restored, will soon be dangerous to live in.
Rebuild and strengthen the sacred stupa and community
A local group with deep connections and understanding in the Swayambunath area have decided to focus their efforts on helping the families that have been deeply affected by two major earthquakes and aftershocks that struck Nepal in April and May 2015. Swayambunath has been one of the most impacted areas in the Kathmandu Valley and is home to numerous monasteries, monks, nuns, bajracharyas (priests) and Nepali, Tibetan and Newari families and pilgrims.
The legend of the Kathmandu Valley is based around Swayambunath where the Buddha Manjushri arrived in Kathmandu to drain the lake so that people could live, farm and worship in this ancient, sacred valley. Swayambunath is not just one of the pure lotuses of Nepal but its roots extend far beyond the area and impact many Nepalis, Tibetans and people from all over the world. It is considered to be one of the most sacred places in the world for Buddhists and it is also a significant place of worship for Hindus. The stupa itself, with its wisdom eyes, is one of the most visible sacred and iconic sites in Nepal and throughout the Himalayas.
Swayambunath is a UNESCO heritage site.
Swayambunath was severely impacted by the recent earthquakes in Nepal. While the stupa itself is intact, according to a recent damage assessment conducted by UNESCO, an estimated 50% of the buildings are categorized as structurally threatened and dangerous and the other half is categorized as having light to extensive damage.
Monks, nuns and pujaris have lost their homes and are currently living in tents or under tarpaulins while they continue to carry out their caretaking and spiritual duties and obligations. On and below the hill, many people have suffered losses, including family members and their homes. Many houses are badly damaged and a number have completely collapsed.
Homes and businesses are an integral part of the pilgrimage circuit at Swayambunath. Shops near the site sell spiritual items including art, hand craft traditions unique to the Kathmandu Valley and basic necessities. Most of them are no longer operational creating severe economic hardships for local residents.
The local community needs basics like food, water, short term shelter, healthcare and assistance for rebuilding homes. Many families are living in tents. Local monasteries and local residents are also providing refuge for people evacuated from Langtang and Rassuwa district. On a larger scale, temple area restoration is a major focus. The key need is to restore the temples, stupas, monasteries and shrines. Approximately 80 to 90% of the sites have suffered light to extensive damage. UNESCO is conducting a survey of the damage. The only relief support available as of the third week of May 2015 to the temple area and local community has been provided by individuals in the area.
Activities to be undertaken
- Survey and consultation with residents
- Restoration of sacred places on the hill
- Stupas that have particular significance for the local community
- First priority is Buddha Kashyapa stupa restoration which legend has it is the oldest stupa in Kathmandu Valley.
- Contribution to larger restoration efforts. Many local community members will make donations to assist with restoration of their sacred space.
- Support for temporary and long term shelter.
- Support for Community needs and priorities as identified by local families, monks, nuns and pujaris and local leaders.
- Assist the caretakers and monastic community who ordinarily rely on donations from pilgrims and local families.
The Swayambunath Fund is comprised of both local and international based individuals and families who have deep connections to and understanding of the local communities and the sacred temple complex.
Preliminary work has started –the following families have been assisted:
- A local family that lost their home and two family members has received initial funding to help them with basic needs.
- Assistance to tented communities throughout the Swayambunath area.
- Support for nuns and monks who have lost their homes.
The Swayambunath Fund will be conducting a needs assessment, providing additional support to activities that were supported, and starting the first stupa restoration project. There will be coordination with relevant authorities and government bureaus and International Organizations and institutions including UNESCO. The group has been in contact with a leading restoration specialist who is part of the UNESCO survey.
The group is also working with a fund that works on Cultural heritage preservation and improving livelihoods in Tibet with leading partners and social benefit corporation that supports artisan and vulnerable populations with an emphasis on assisting women.
If you would like to help with this project, please consider making a donation of $5, $10, $25 or more to help Nepal.