Resolute against despair, even when everything she built and owned was swept away in the 2017 floods, Tara Devi is determined to keep moving on, and credits the recovery package recently received from the Chinese government for helping her along that path
Tara Devi Tatwa says her life has been a series of hard knocks—the most recent of which came from the floods that hit the Terai in August 2017. Still, despite the difficulties she’s faced, and the challenges still strewn on her path, Tara is determined not to lose hope. “One that’s gone, you have nothing,” she says.
Just three years ago, the forty-something Parsa local had started to think she was in a good place. She had a big family, enough money to get by on, and her own house—a cement structure, at that—built in a decent location far from the banks of the river.
Things, however, began to slide soon after. When two of her sons expressed an interest in going abroad to work, Tara had taken a loan from a local landlord at a substantial interest rate. But the dream soon soured. Although the sons had made it overseas, they were not able to earn as quickly or as much as they had expected to, and the family’s debts were skyrocketing by the day, culminating in them having to give up their home.
And so Tara and her family moved to a small hut on the banks of the Tilawe river. Hoping to make the best of it, she started a small poultry farm raising 200 chicks, along with making and selling rope. Though physical disability meant her eldest, Anil, could not work, her other two sons managed to supplement the family’s income through their stints as laborers. It seemed as though they were finally making some progress.
But another shock was on the horizon: Tara’s neighborhood was not spared in the heavy rainfall that lashed the Terai during the monsoon’s last year, which had snatched away lives and homes and crops—and dreams—in the country’s south with ruthless abandon.
“It had rained all night, and at around 6 in the morning, the waters suddenly gushed into our hut. It was up to here,” she says, gesturing at her mouth, “in no time.” The family’s poultry hut was also flooded, the birds either flying off or drowned. “We ran towards the village but didn’t know who to ask for help—everyone was so busy saving themselves and their families. So, we just held each other,” Tara says. “When it was over, we saw that everything we had built and owned had been wrecked and we were left with nothing except the clothes on our bodies and our lives.”
Tara managed to acquire some relief materials that were being handed out by the Amarpatti Police Post: the tarpaulin allowed her to put up the temporary shelter in which the family is still living, and there were some other food items and cooking equipment. Resourceful as ever, she began making rope again and selling it in the market, and her sons returned to work.
Helping her further along that path to recovery is a package she recently received as part of the assistance funded by the Government of China in collaboration with the Nepali government and UNDP, and the Suryodaya Youth Club as the local partner. Tara had been recommended as an eligible beneficiary by the local government, villagers and local police, and after she was placed on the list, she had gotten a QR card, using which she was able to claim the package. Inside were various essential non-food items, including blankets, shawls, cooking utensils, a water filter, a smokeless cooking stove and hygiene kits, among other necessities.
“It’s been very difficult living like this, especially with cold wave we have been experiencing here,” Tara says. “These items are just what we needed to cope.”
Tara’s immediate plans are to work hard and put together enough money to send to one of her sons, who is still overseas and hasn’t been able to afford to come back. She then plans to pay off the landlord little by little, and eventually get her house back. And, regretting that she never sent her own kids to school, she also wants to educate her grandchildren.
She is, however realistic and knows that it’s going to take a great deal more time and effort for all this to happen. But Tara says the most important thing is to not be discouraged, but keep moving forward. And the Chinese assistance has been great motivation in this regard, according to her. “It might not seem like much to those with everything, but when you’re struggling to get by, things like a stove and a filter make all the difference,” she adds.
The Government of the People’s Republic of China has partnered with UNDP Nepal to provide US$ four million to support recovery efforts in Nepal’s Terai region affected by one of the worst floods in recent history. The assistance provided under the framework of the Chinese South South Cooperation Assistance Fund, will reach 31,800 households in Sunsari, Saptari, Sarlahi, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Rautahat and Parsa districts of Provinces 1 and 2.