In Nepal roughly 80% of the population live in rural mountainous regions that have little to no access to electricity. With the devastating earthquakes on April 25th and May 12th 2015 the citizens of Nepal were left with a broken country, 9,000 people killed, tens of thousands of people injured and over 2.5 million homeless.
In Nepal, rooftop solar panels are being used in households to provide power for daily electrical appliances and activities; at schools to power computers and at hospitals and health posts to power patient needs in the rural mountainous communities.
My goal is to raise awareness around humanitarian and environmental issues globally. Through the Terry Mikeska Foundation, a non-profit organization, 100% volunteered focused on delivering solar energy to Nepal, I returned to Nepal last month March 2017 to communities enduring the difficulties of life without electricity due to energy poverty.
The country continues to rebuild with the citizens of Nepal struggling to survive in the midst of the current political crisis that has left the country with a limited access to petrol, medicine, cooking gas and other essential supplies.
Nearly 1.3 billion people worldwide are without access to electricity. Without electricity, a modern quality of life is impossible and the growth and prosperity of a country is severely hindered. Terry Mikeska has a mission to reduce this figure by providing free solar panel energy to schools, homes and health posts. My goal is to provide electricity access to hundreds of families in Nepal, The Terry Mikeska Foundation has partnership with Work Committed Society, an organization I myself established 3 years ago in Nepal with local volunteer Nepalese students to assist me with missions throughout the country of Nepal. During my first visit after the earthquake I witnessed the corruption of how funds from other countries and organizations where being used and decided that this was not how I wanted to see my donor funds utilized so I hired a legal team in Nepal to set up our own organization to make sure 100% of donations would be given to the poor people and used on our projects. Since 2015 the Terry Mikeska Foundation has successfully implemented over 38 projects in the country.
My volunteer team is still weighing out the various needs throughout each village and their commitment to rebuilding Nepal. My goal was to capture the impact of solar technology as Nepal continues to rebuild and help rebuild schools, medical post and basic necessities to the Nepalese people. The vision I had was to share a story that chronicles the lives of the Nepalese families and local community members that we visited throughout Nepal’s countryside and to show their shared hardships, stories and experiences. Through my visits and photos, I illustrate the struggles faced by the citizens of Nepal as the country continues to rebuild and how all of us, the donors is empowering their lives.
Over the past 3 years, my curiosity to explore these villages in Nepal has taken me to the most devastating areas. I choose to live, breathe, eat and survive with these local folks so I can share these stories. When I get back each time to the US I realize more and more how fortunate we are, to have hundreds of local , state, government and organizational programs to assist the poor here in the U.S. including housing, food, healthcare, daycare and even a cell phone, here in these villages of Nepal there is nothing, I witnessed a small child that died of starvation and body burned along the side of a river, this was more than I could handle.
My projects took me back to Nepal for a third time last month. The first time I visited was in Oct 2015. I landed in Kathmandu, someone scared but determined. My Nepal family I was assisting prior to the earthquake was at the airport with open arms. It was an incredible, life changing experience living in their village, I hand washed my clothes, milked the cow, cut rice, learned how to create gas for cooking from cow manure , walked miles if you need to go somewhere and live with no electricity. At night I would sleep under a mosquito net and would hear sounds crawling around me realizing it was these lizards that come out at night and play.
I ended up spending 2 months in Nepal and I had a genuine connection with the people, community and country. The Nepalese are a very special kind of people with a strong sense of dignity, compassion and unity.
The biggest obstacle was looking at the best time of year to do missions. In Nepal, there are two preferred times a year for travel, either peak season from late September to early December when the air is crisp and fresh with clear skies or February to mid-April when it is warm and dry; The summer months of June to August are also the monsoon season in Nepal and not an ideal time to visit. The weather is hot and wet. It rains almost everyday with occasional thunderstorms in the evenings.
Another factor to consider is the festival season. Throughout the Nepalese annual calendar, there are several religious holidays. Dashain is a very popular festival in Nepal. It is the longest and most auspicious festival celebrated, it is a celebration of family. People return home from all over the world to spend time with their family and loved ones. All government offices, educational institutions and businesses remain closed during the festival period that falls in October and lasts for fifteen days. Doing a mission during the festival season can be challenging.
Travel and logistics are equally as important to work out long before the project starts. We had to secure well in advance a four-wheel drive vehicle and experienced driver to take us across Nepal’s countryside and up the mountains and undeveloped areas to reach the villages and do our projects.
Access to water from tap stands outside each house or village and was all I had for a shower along with bottled water to drink.
The foundation provided rice pots and rice, water filtration systems , solar panels, school supplies, knitted hats and even pallets of Holy Bibles in their language to the pastors and their churches I met during my visits. Hindu is the most practiced religion in the country but after connecting with the Nepal Baptist organization I was able to connect with a pastor on the west side of Nepal teaching the word of God who's congregation grew to over 300 families that attended their church in an old building and wanted more bibles. There are only a few outlets in Nepal where you can buy or order Christian materials and I was fortunate to find a very nice man that had one of these stores that wholesaled to missionaries.
An additional problem is that currently there is only one hydro station that has storage capacity in the country. The remaining hydro plants are run-of-river power. So during the dry season Nepal only has 25% of energy generation leaving the population with around 12-16 hours of load shedding during the dry months that runs for more than six months. This is why it is important to have a healthy energy mix of renewable energy sources in the country to address the energy crisis, to be independent and to be climate resilient. With the earthquake, most of the hydro stations were damaged.
In Nepal, 80% of the population lack access to reliable electricity and live in the rural parts of the country. A few of the project sites we had on the agenda required a days worth of travel and off-road driving up Nepal’s countryside.
For the project, once on site, we distributed and setup a series of solar kits to the local families, health post and school.
I try to be a minimalist when it comes to things to carry while traveling on assignment.
Traveling has taught me to survive in difficult situations, think on my feet and problem solve various scenarios that come up. Oftentimes, you will be uncomfortable, but as long as you keep your team together, stay safe and keep a flexible attitude and an open mind travel is the best kind of education that will take you to some of the most intriguing places throughout Nepal.
Everyday we are faced with environmental and societal concerns that challenge us to look inward, encourage us to re-evaluate our actions towards one another and inspire us to look closely at the world we reside in. Be true to yourself and follow your curiosity and passion.
In Nepal, the streets are so full of life with people who are proud to share their stories and life experiences if approached. Their strength of character shines through and it was important to me to capture this the best I could.
Developing countries must expand access to reliable and modern energy services if they are to reduce poverty and improve the health of their citizens. Nepal is currently facing a petrol crisis on top of their electricity crisis. As a landlocked country, Nepal depends heavily on India for the import of goods into the country. Nepal at times face a shortage in fuel stock over a four-month blockade at the Indian border. At times we would wait in lines for hours to refuel our vehicle.
During this past visit I "surprised" the 170 students at the new school we the donors built last fall, the school has 5 classrooms and the students first ever his and hers restroom. The look on their faces when I arrived was shocking, several elementary girls ran around the school building to pick flowers and bring to me as a welcoming to their village.
This fall of 2017 I plan on returning to Nepal to build a new health post for the Red Cross, provide free healthcare services to over 3,000 families along with school supplies and books for the teachers and students.
The Terry Mikeska Foundation , PO Box 61692, San Angelo, Tx 76906 will continue to accept tax-deductible donations from those wanting to help with the Fall project. You can also visit our website at www.terrymikeskafoundation.org to see hundreds of stories, photos and articles.