How Tourism and Training are Helping Nepal Heal

Tourism Cares and the Harvard Kennedy School Nepal Fund (funded by students at the school), recently sponsored a training program for people displaced from the Langtang region of Nepal by April’s earthquake, which triggered a series of landslides that destroyed their villages.

Upasana Khadka from the Fund reports:

Women and a few men, currently living in Kathmandu, the capital, were provided a ten day course on Lodge and Small Hotel Management at the Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hospitality Management (NATHM).

Because Langtang is one of the most popular trekking destinations in Nepal, most of its residents are involved in the tourism sector. While men are involved in both trekking as well as hotel management, women are mostly involved in the latter.

Therefore, the course allowed them to get equipped with skills that will help them better run their hotels and teahouses in addition to helping them pass time productively as they wait idly in the capital. The course included the following topics: housekeeping, hygiene, reception, cooking, bakery and waste management. Given that the course was 6-7 hours long per day, we also provided them with transportation and dinner at NATHM.

Lhakpa Jangba, one of the few men who took this course, kindly sent us a review of his experience at NATHM. Lhakpa used to be a baker in Kyanjin Gumba where he ran a small bakery called “Dorje Bakery Café”. He took this course to enhance his knowledge and be able to provide his customers with better services.  As one of the few people in the group who is able to read and write, he expresses “I was a little worried in the beginning because many of our women are not educated. However, NATHM understood our situation and tailored the course such that we had 90 per cent practical classes and 10 per cent theory classes that enabled us to learn much better. Everyday, spending 6-7 hours in the course also allowed us to get closer as a community as we were able to share our thoughts and help each other. The 10 days passed so quickly that by the time the course ended, we were wishing for more.” He further continues, “I was able to understand the women from my village better, their aspirations and the questions they have regarding what happened and what lies ahead. I too don’t have answers to many of their questions and am always thinking of ways to improve the situation of our community. We enjoyed the course and learnt a lot about high quality hotel management and once our normal lives resume, we want to use our cooking and baking skills. Most of the women mentioned that they felt refreshed and the course gave them a lot of willpower to move forward with their lives.” He hopes that he will be able to upgrade his café to a new level with a combination of local and western food items.

Just like Lhakpa, everyone in the community has incredible stories of loss and survival. Two volunteers from Langtang, Tsering and Jangbu, kindly conducted interviews of a few trainees:

Dhamjay was sobbing when she got off the helicopter as she had lost everything during the earthquake. When she saw the landslides coming, she hid in a hole otherwise was used to hide potatoes during winters to prevent them from rotting. She could not breathe nor move as she was completely covered with snow. When her son Tsewang helped free her, she was in a lot of pain both because her right leg was fractured and also because she realized that she had lost her husband and her daughter. But because her other three children survived the disaster, she had to stay strong despite the pain.

Cho Pema Tamang, a native from Langtang, used to be a farmer who grew barley, buckwheat etc. When the earthquake hit, she was in her field planting barley with her daughter, son and 6 other villagers. The minute the earthquake started and the avalanches followed, they ran under a rock in the field and stayed there till everything stopped. Everything was covered in snow. Once she dug out her children from the snow, they headed upwards and hid under a big rock which was relatively safer. They stayed there with 15 other villages without any food or blankets. Five of them were severely injured in the head, leg or hand while the rest had minor injuries.

My life after Earthquake has been like hell”, says Dawa who another survivor. Her husband, Chenga Tamang, was a worker at local Cheese and Bread Factory. Their business was doing very well as it was the only factory in Langtang. When the earthquake hit, she was on her buckwheat farm clearing weeds with 5 other women. Once the shaking began, Dawa being relatively younger, was able to run faster than others. Other women were knocked down by the avalanche while Dawa managed to hide behind a stone. She saw roof tins flying in the sky along with pieces of woods and iron rods at a great speed. Once the landslide stopped, Dawa rushed towards her house and there was nothing left. After seeing the situation of her husband’s workplace she knew that he is no more. She was then worried about her two sons who had gone to a forest to look for some kind of herb. But luckily they survived by taking shelter under a big stone. She wants to be good in Bakery and wants to give continuation to her husband’s profession.

 Dolma Tamang was returning to Mundu village after working in her field for a few hours in Langtang. When the earthquake started, Dolma and her children ran towards a big stone hoping to hide behind it but the stone started rolling towards them. So they ran towards a field. Her two daughters who had gone to Langtang to drop something at their grandmother’s house were unfortunately killed by the landslide. The next day when Dolma heard that her daughters body was lying somewhere in the field, she went to get their bodies with her husband which was one of the most painful experiences of her life.

All the trainees are waiting to rebuild their lives in Langtang. They enjoyed the course thoroughly and have now gone back to Langtang to recover any belongings that can be salvaged, to clear trails and they will again be back in Kathmandu at the camp over winter. We have a few more projects on the pipeline for our friends from Langtang to help with tourism revival: to provide advanced cooking and bakery courses to a subset of the trainees and to ensure that they have access to baking equipment and ingredients once they setup their teahouses/hotels in Langtang. We are very grateful to the management of NATHM for their support throughout the process.