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Nepal Diaries

Nepal Diaries

A Journey of Perseverance – Part 5

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In the final part of this interview series, R Madan Chief Projects Officer of The Akshaya Patra Foundation summarises his experience at the Earthquake Relief Centralised Kitchen in Nepal, and contemplates the future. Read the previous section of the interview here.

Tell us about the collaboration between Tata Trusts and Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha.

As I said both Tata Trusts and Akshaya Patra didn’t have a mandate to operate in Nepal, but Sipradian Motors who have an NGO arm called Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha (SSS) have a great presence in the region. Their help was crucial to paving the way for the project to run smoothly. The collaboration between the three of these organisations (Akshaya Patra, Tata Trusts and SSS) went off well. Now if we get the opportunity to start something in Nepal, Sipradian can be our ready partner.

IMG_2433Can we look forward to such collaborations in future?

Yes, we do see more collaboration with them. Nepal doesn’t have a Mid-Day Meal Programme, so the implementation of such programmes will be helpful to the people.

What are the high points of your experience?

One of the high points was that we were able to play a part in reducing the distress of the people. With their daily food taken care of, they could take focus on reconstruction.

We stood true to our word and earned the goodwill of the people.

 

 P.S – The Nepal kitchen closed operations as planned on September 17, 2015 after serving 1.4 million meals across 88 days in the region. The Akshaya Patra Foundation thanks everyone involved in making this initiative a success.

 

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Nepal Diaries

A Journey of Perseverance – Part 4

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In the fourth of our five part interview with R Madan, Chief Projects Officer at The Akshaya Patra Foundation, we are given insight into the success of the Earthquake Relief Centralised Kitchen initiative in Nepal. Read the previous section of the interview here.

What is the feedback from the beneficiaries about the food and running of the programme?

When we were there, the head of Tata Trusts and I visited the camps. We were surprised to be greeted by the entire camp. All the children were dancing and singing in their traditional clothes. They were very appreciative towards us.

blog4-image1The icing of the cake was what a lady said, which I think was written in the papers also. She said it’s not just about Akshaya Patra serving food. The initiative has brought people together at the camps too. It has created a social gathering because they all sit around where the food is being served. When we were serving the food, that one hour in the morning and evening became a social gathering where they could forget their troubles and look forward to something brighter. This for me was the greatest takeaway.

How many places/camps has Akshaya Patra been feeding in Nepal?

On an average we are feeding 12 to 14 camps. But the number of camps keeps varying from time to time because some of them are shutting down. The closest camp was around 3 kilometres while the furthest was around 45 kilometres.

Can you tell us about the additional benefits of the kitchen, like providing employment and income?

nepal-ladies-finalMore than income, it was a more of fostering cooperation between us and the people of Nepal.

Unlike in India, where we have three meals a day, Nepal is a little different because they rely on two big meals for the full day. Their morning meal was a big meal. During the afternoon they don’t usually eat followed by another big meal at around 6.30-7.30 in the evening.

But the issue was that people there were not willing to come to work before 7am. When we visited the camp, we asked a few ladies to join us at the kitchen. Initially they were little hesitant about coming early. We convinced them that we would pick them up and provide them with breakfast, after which they agreed to work in the kitchen. When we gave them these assurances, we had around 25 women coming to work for us.

blog4-image4Even more surprising was when their first month was over and we were giving them their salary, they refused to take it. They said they were indebted towards Akshaya Patra for their service, but we made sure they take their salary. That for me was a great feeling.

The Nepal Ambassador also visited the kitchen and the best thing he said in his concluding remark was till now the friendship between India and Nepal has been at a Governmental level. But this is one programme that had direct contact with the people. He also said he will go all out to help Akshaya Patra establish its operations in Nepal. This was a great statement made by him.

 Part V on 24 September…

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Nepal Diaries

A journey of Perseverance – Part 3

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In the third section of this five part series, R Madan Chief Projects Officer at The Akshaya Patra Foundation describes the challenges the team faced in the initial days of facilitating the set up of the Earthquake Relief Centralised Kitchen in Nepal. Read Part 1 and Part 2 too!

Can you tell us about the initial challenges you faced? How did you overcome these challenges?

Our CSS (Central Strategic Sourcing) Head and our Project head went to Nepal and scouted the area to see where the kitchen could be established. Initially, we thought everything was destroyed there but we got the good news that some buildings are intact. We inspected a few wedding halls where we thought we could host the kitchen. We also had to check the supply lines because roads had also been damaged in the earthquakes, however they were fine and the roads were being fixed. This service was completely being done by India.

blog-3We zeroed in on one marriage hall which was around 2,500 square feet. The area didn’t have a wall around it. But we planned and moved like a battalion to get the kitchen operational at the earliest. We built a wall around the kitchen and finished the entire job of fixing the kitchen in three days flat.

The people of Nepal didn’t know the concept of centralised kitchen. What they were used to was a langar type of kitchen. Even when we asked the vendors for 3 tonnes of rice, they were taken aback. It was not just the people but even our collaborators, Tata Trusts and Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha couldn’t believe it. When people started visiting the kitchen, then they realised the scale of our operations.

blog-3-2Initially we followed a North Indian menu for the people. But we got a lot of negative feedback in the first two days with regards to the food. We were taken aback and needed to find out the reason as soon as possible. Luckily I met a person who could speak a little Hindi. We asked him to translate and find out why was there a negative feedback about the food.

The people said they didn’t have a problem with the quality of food and it’s very tasty. The main issue was with the certain types of vegetables and dal being used. In Hindu tradition when you are in mourning certain vegetables – for example pumpkin, brinjal and masoor dal – cannot be consumed. It was a lack of knowledge but also a great learning experience at that time. They also had a problem with the rice we were serving. That day I called the Chef who worked at the hotel where we were staying. He was a Nepali who worked in India. I asked him to help us out with the rice. He wanted to see the rice so I gave him a sample.

He cooked him in his style and said that this is the correct rice to be served. And there was no looking back from there.

Part IV on 23 September…

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Nepal Diaries

A journey of perseverance – Part 2

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In the second of this five part series, R Madan Chief Projects Officer of The Akshaya Patra Foundation describes his first impression on arriving at Nepal to facilitate the setup of the Earthquake Relief Centralised Kitchen. Read the first part of the series here.

What was your first impression on reaching the site?

nepal-image1When I reached Nepal I saw quite a few building that were intact but as we moved in towards the towns, we began to see the devastation caused by the earthquake. Bhaktapur which is a historical city at the heart of Nepal, where we set up the kitchen, was completely devastated.

When I reached the camp I realised that unlike innepal-image2 other places the people from the camps were not just the financially disadvantaged, but people from different social classes who lost everything due to the earthquake. Victims were forced to leave their places and everyone went to Kathmandu under the assumption that all relief was there. They were right because relief operations could not function in other areas.

There was a lot of stress and strain for the people, and emotions were high. We could see that in their eyes.

Part III on 22 September…

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Nepal Diaries

A journey of perseverance – Part 1

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In this five part interview series R Madan, Chief Projects Officer at The Akshaya Patra Foundation, shares his experiences setting up the Earthquake Relief Centralised Kitchen in Nepal. Find out about the daily challenges and triumphs he and the team faced on their journey to provide daily, nutritious food in the earthquake affected region.

Can you tell us how the kitchen reached the one million mark? How long did it take from day 1?

When the earthquake happened on April 24th in Nepal, we got a call from the TATA Trusts CEO and he asked us what we could do to help. I suggested we set up a kitchen. Earlier we were airlifting supplies but that was a limited option. So I checked with the vendors to see if we could readily acquire equipment for a project like this.

Nepal-blog-image-2We began pulling material from Bengaluru, Valsad, Lucknow and Pune. All our vendors cooperated with us when they heard what we were trying to do. Our team went to Nepal and at the border we then took the help of TATA motors to help us with transportation of the material and Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha to clear the material through customs.

Both TATA Trusts and Akshaya Patra don’t have a mandate to operate there but TATA Trusts utilised the help of Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha, which has a strong presence in Nepal, for the project.

To help kick start the operations, a few of our executives from Bangalore, Lucknow and Vrindavan were sent to Nepal. We also hired a few people from Madurai on contract, who were specialised in disaster management.

After working incessantly for weeks, on the afternoon of June 18th, our truck reached there and on June 19th, we send out the first meals.

From that day till today, we have covered over 1 million meals in Nepal.

Part II on 21 September…

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Nepal Diaries

Journey of ‘The Earthquake Relief Centralised Kitchen Project,’ Nepal

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This initiative was aimed to contribute towards bringing relief and hope to the people affected by the massive earthquake here in Nepal.

The Journey (Scroll down to begin)

17 September 2015 – The journey ends

On 17 September the Earthquake Relief Centralised Kitchen set up under the aegis of Tata Trusts and their associates Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha, and facilitated by The Akshaya Patra Foundation, served its last meal. The kitchen was closed as planned on this day, after a fulfilling journey spanning 88 days of operation and serving 1.4 million meals. This has truly been a rewarding and unforgettable experience for all involved at The Akshaya Patra Foundation.

21 August 2015 – A million meals

The Nepal kitchen crossed the production and distribution of its millionth meal! The kitchen continues serving nutritious food to camps still running in the area.

18 July 2015 – The journey continues

At the end of one month the Earthquake Relief Centralised Kitchen in Nepal served 441,632 meals to the beneficiaries in the region. The kitchen’s reach has now grown to providing over 17,000 meals across 17 camps in and around Bhaktapur every day. With the continued support of Tata Trusts, Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha and the Government of Nepal, the kitchen is expected to remain in operations for the next three to five months at least.

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23 June 2015 – Providing nutrition and employment

Once again preparations have been on to serve wholesome meals to 5,500 people in the morning and evening each. When the crew arrives at the kitchen in the morning the food has already been filled into the vessels to deliver on time to the camps in the region. On the menu today is rice, dal (pulses), with a gourd and beans sabji (vegetable).

Before leaving to follow the delivery vehicles to a camp, the crew meets Tek Bahadur Bhandari, his wife Tika Maya Bhandari and their third daughter Anita. Tek and Tika have three sons and four daughters. They migrated to Bhaktapur, and were in search of work. Now by working in the kitchen they are able to support their family. It’s heartwarming to know that the kitchen is not just providing nutritious food to those in need, but also providing employment in the region.

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Tek and his family

The crew visits the camp at Byasi, near Bhaktapur, in the evening. This camp houses about 450 people who stay in the makeshift shelters. The big tents hold about four or five families each, while the smaller ones hold one family.Here Sunar Prajapati, camp-in-charge says, “The food is sufficient and helpful. No we don’t have to struggle to cook anything anymore.”

An interesting feature of the camp is that it also has a playschool which cares for eighty children.

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A group of children enjoying the meal

22 June 2015 – Life goes on

Relief measures continue in Bhaktapur as the morning meal is prepared for 5,500 people. The menu for the morning meal consists of rice, dal, with a carrot and bean sabji (vegetable). The first van leaves the kitchen at 6.30am, and the last van at 8.30am to deliver the fresh food on time to the camps.

Following one of the delivery vans takes our team to the Kamal Vinayak (Garund Kunde) camp, the same one we visited yesterday. We watch as people gather quickly to get their meals. Mothers are accompanied by their little children who are curious about the activity at the camp. Today the residents recognise us, and open up to us about their experience.

A mother at the camp says, “If the food arrives on time, I won’t have to worry about my children food before school…yes, now the schools have reopened and they are going back to school.”

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Fresh food getting distributed to the camp residents

As the community accepts us amongst them, we get an opportunity to get a glimpse into their lives at the camp.

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An elderly lady having her morning meal in her tent

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A family enjoying the meal in their tent. They have managed to salvage some of their belongings from the disaster.

Back in the kitchen preparations have been on to cook the evening meal, which is completed by 4.00pm. The menu for this meal is rice, dal and cabbage sabji.

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Cooked food in containers ready for delivery

Howeve, in order to avoid wasting excess food, we have decided to distribute food to new areas around Bhaktapur. We follow the delivery vehicles to a new location that houses about 200 families.

As the food is being served at the new location, a young resident of the locality Vishnu Prajapati tells us, “No one has delivered any food to this community so far, this is the first time it’s happening. This will make not a small change but a big one. The children here are going back to schools after a long break because of the earthquake and this food will certainly help them too.”

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People come together to find out what is happening

Believing that these meals will help bring some stability to the region after days of instability, we take leave of this community.

21 June 2015 – Ensuring food for all

Cooking starts long before the sun rises to make sure the food is delivered on time to the 5,500 people waiting in the camps. On the menu for the morning meal is rice, dal and potato sabji (vegetable). To feed so many hungry people 1,700 kilograms of rice, 1,200 litres of dal (pulses) and 780 kilograms of potato vegetabl is prepared.

The delivery team reaches Kamal Vinayak (Garund Kunde) camp, which is providing shelter to about 500 people from Tocha, Bhaktapur. Here Romila, a concerned citizen says, “Their houses are destroyed, they have lost everything, so taking care for their food both morning and evening…they don’t have to worry about that, I think this is good job you guys are doing.”

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Waiting in line to get the fresh morning meal (Kamal Vinayak)

At the relief camp in Maheswari, Sabin Khyaju, Secretary of the Management Committee of Maheswari says, “The relief camp is home to around 800 people whose houses and most of their belongings have been destroyed including cooking utensils, so even if they have raw ingredients they are unable to cook. The delivery of the cooked food at the location has created a social and communal event. The people came out in numbers to receive their rations required for their families and they take that time to talk to each other and strengthen their bond amongst the people.”

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A girl coming back to her tent after getting her morning meal

The menu for the evening meal is rice, dal, beans and potato sabji (vegetable), to feed 5,500 people

20 June 2015 – Food served to 5,500 people

On the 20th of June the first morning meal was prepared for 5,500 people. It took approximately 2 tons of rice, 220 kilograms of dal, 70 kilograms of tomatoes, 140 kilograms of potatoes, 30 kilograms of spices and other condiments and masala. The cooking measurements are taken after feedback on requirement from SSS, which will gradually climb up to the targeted figure.

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Preparation of morning meals

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Food being delivered and served at a relief camp

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Families enjoy their healthy morning meals at a relief camp

The kitchen has the capacity to cook about 10,000 meals in an hour with a maximum capacity of cooking 100,000 meals a day. The kitchen will serve the beneficiaries in and around Kathmandu for the next six months and continue if need be.

19 June 2015 – Kitchen is ready and serving begins

Assessing the amount of work, the kitchen is looking to start operating on 21st June. The dedication and devotion to the humanitarian effort stirred the staff on and the kitchen is ready on mid-day 19th June. After two hours of quality assessment and cleaning the first evening meals were cooked to serve 1,100 people in an area called Bode, one of the eleven regions identified to be delivered cooked meals every day.

The people accommodated in makeshift shelters at Bode came from the worst hit area of Sindhulpal Chowk. Madan, the camp coordinator of Bode said, “Despite all the things that have happened we will come up from this. The relief kitchen initiative has also given us the strength to look forward.”

Bhelukhel, Maheswari, Jella, Garun Kund, Kamal Binayak, Thulo Bayasee, Bayasee, Bode, Thali, Gokarneswar and Bhugmati are the eleven regions in and around Kathmandu identified by the initiative to be delivered cooked food every day.

The relief kitchen is set to cook two meals a day, where all the locations except Bhugmati will receive morning meals; the numbers of meals for each place vary according to need. The kitchen will cook around 7,192 morning meals and 8,192 evening meals each day, and will be delivered using vehicles provided by Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha.

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Kitchen almost ready for operation

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Cooking begins

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 Food being unloaded from the cauldrons

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 Loading the food on the delivery vehicle

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Fresh cooked food distributed in the evening at a camp in Bode, one of the eleven areas identified to be served

18 June 2015 – Last truck reaches Bhaktapur and installation process begins

On 18th June, the last vehicle reached Bhaktapur. It brought a cauldron, boiler and other related accessories to get the kitchen ready.

The kitchen is built on an area of approximately 2,500 sq. feet with vessels storage and washing area adjoined. This temporary centralised kitchen is expected to cook approximately 10,000 meals a day, and is equipped with three cauldrons of 600 litres capacity to cook rice, and one cauldron of 1,200 litre capacity to cook dal, as well as other machines to assist in the food preparation process like cutting, peeling and grinding vegetables.

15 June 2015

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A man standing on what is left of his house looking over what is left outside

 14 June 2015

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While some are engrossed at work, some are busy in a game of chess somewhere in Nepal

12 June 2015

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Work in progress at the kitchen site

10 June 2015 – Trucks arrive at Bhaktapur, new kitchen location is identified

The first batch of trucks arrived on 10th June, 2015. Once the equipment and materials are unloaded, work of setting up the kitchen takes a brisk pace towards completion. Meanwhile the location of the kitchen has been changed to a new site as the earlier is deemed unsuitable. The new kitchen is located at Subakamana Party Palace, Suryabinayak Chowk, Bhaktapur.

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Materials arrive at the new kitchen site in Bhaktapur

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Setting the kitchen up

9 June 2015

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A student preparing for exam in a deserted school which now serves a home to him

 8 June 2015

 

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A mother getting her children ready for school

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A deserted classroom

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While classes are conducted in temporary classrooms outside

7 June 2015

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Innocence is intact, despite the debris!

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Clean up initiative underway in Nepal

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People trying to rebuild and salvage

5 June 2015

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Makeshift shelters accommodating survivors in Nepal

28 May 2015

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Materials essential to run the kitchen loaded on a truck in Lucknow

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One of the trucks packed with materials leave for destination Kathmandu

27th May – Aggregation and dispatch of Materials

On 27th May, overseen by the Akshaya Patra operations team, various installation materials are aggregated and packed in Bengaluru, Pune, Valsad and Lucknow; to be shipped to Nepal.

By end-May, 2015 two trucks from Bengaluru carrying heavy kitchen equipment like cauldrons as well as food products with a long shelf life that are not available in Nepal like spices and tamarind juice left for Nepal. The vehicle from Pune carried a Thermax boiler, while the truck from Valsad carried a small boiler and other required material. The Lucknow truck carried vessels, crates and pallets, and galvanized iron boxes amongst other items.

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Packed materials ready for shipment

28th April – Communication from Prime Minister’s Office

On 28th April Akshaya Patra receives communication from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to assist the earthquake survivors in Nepal. Akshaya Patra prepares 100,000 meals in its Jaipur kitchen on 29th April which is transported to Delhi and then airlifted to Nepal. On 30th April Akshaya Patra sends an additional 2,500 kilograms of emergency food aid to the region.

Meanwhile, on 29th April, Akshaya Patra operations team meets with Principal Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and prepares a Plan of Action to set up an open kitchen facility to provide meals to the people displaced due to the earthquake.

In the next few days, a joint committee comprising of nominees from Tata Trust, Akshaya Patra and Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha (SSS) conducted a need analysis and found that thousands of people in and around Kathmandu are in dire need of food, water and shelter.

A joint initiative by The Akshaya Patra Foundation, Jamsetji Tata Trust and Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha is taken up to set up an earthquake relief centralised kitchen in Bhaktapur.

Akshaya Patra presents a comprehensive plan for setting up of kitchen working with Jamsetji Tata Trust and Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha, mapping out the kitchen structure, material requirement, budget and responsibilities of each party.

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25th April 2015 – Nepal Earthquake

The earthquake on the 25th April and the tremors after claim lives of more than 8,800 people; injure over 23,000 and displace millions across Nepal.

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