All photos courtesy of Varun Kumar Todi and his team

Rebuilding Nepal from the rubble up

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he images of the landscape have been devastating, as entire towns and communities have been reduced to rubble. The Boar can exclusively release a set of photos of the village of Nallu, one of the worst affected in the region. We spoke to one of the survivors Varun Kumar Todi, a former Warwick graduate who is pioneering the rehabilitation effort.

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Our conversation happened a matter of days after the second earthquake, and it was clear that things were still very shaky on the ground: “Basically, what you need to understand Hiran, is that Nepal is a very difficult country.”

Varun calmly explained how the government have continuously failed in their organisational capacity to look after their people; “Let’s be brutally honest, they were thoroughly dependent on countries like India and their rescue and relief forces to help out, you know.”

He is very thankful for aid organisations such as Roundtable for doing “an absolutely amazing job” Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, being instrumental in filling the holes that the Nepalese government had left in the days following the quake.

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“We have pretty much decided to adopt a village called Nallu, which is in a district called Lalitpur about two hours’ drive from Kathmandu.” Varun’s vision, on behalf of NYEF or the Nepalese Young Entrepreneurs’ Forum, is very simple: to rebuild Nepal from the rubble up; one house, one village, one family at a time. He described the first time he visited the village with tents and tarpaulin to bring some shelter to the struggling villagers, and the desperate among them stopped their SUV, and held them hostage.

“The villagers literally came out and were like, ‘We are not going to let you pass, before you give us the relief material, so there is clearly desperation there. We had to negotiate our way out of it, because we were there to help them, not to cause any harm.”

I asked him as to the state of the damage whilst they were driving through. He replied, “I have seen pretty horrific stuff, that can’t be described in words.”

Varun’s background started in an international boarding school in India, before coming to the UK to study at Warwick. He graduated in 2009 from Warwick Business School with a BSc in Accounting and Finance, moving swiftly onto a job in PwC, impressively in the middle of a recession. But then something changed.

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“In 2012, I was sort of at a crossroads. It was a toss-up between doing something in the UK or come back to the family business. My family have been in Nepal for more than 125 years, I am the fifth generation of my family, and we’ve been in Nepal throughout. Firmly rooted in culture and traditional values, he ventured back home.

It is what motivates him to help now. He believes that not enough organisations are talking about redevelopment. “So what do you do? You are rescuing them, and then what? Where are they going? You can’t put them in tents forever, can you?” As part of NYEF, the organisation that is heading up the rehabilitation effort, there are a four keys goals needed to make sure that Nepal gets back up on its feet.

The first step is rebuilding structures, which they hope to do by adopting Nallu. The second step is finalising a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, already working in Nepal on a bamboo-based housing structure affordable and strong enough to withstand more shocks.

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The third is looking to employ better sanitation, because at the moment “you go somewhere, dig a trench, do your business and then come back” which has the danger of causing and spreading disease – the last thing that such a damaged community and healthcare system can deal with right now. The final step, and the most important objective, is to promote entrepreneurship. This sounds odd, but the premise is very encouraging and unique.

They have already signed deals with local microfinance companies enabling villagers to take very cheap loans to rebuild their own businesses with very little risk. The thought is that this will “enable a villager to fish for himself, rather than just getting the fish” with the money itself backed up by NYEF themselves.

Over 20 percent of the target $500,000 has already been raised, however as Varun himself says: “the need of the hour is to not talk, but walk and to make sure that something is actually on the ground.” It is even more necessary as monsoon season is less than a month away.

In his final message to students, Mr Todi said: “Warwick is a fantastic place, and the graduates go far and beyond, doing fantastically well in their careers and socially. But there is also a different side to it – you need to be charitable, aware of what is going on in the world and how this might impact you.

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“My message would just be that Nepal is in a critical situation. It’s pretty dire and bleak and any contribution that can come from the Warwick community will go a long way towards helping with the relief and rescue, as well as the rehabilitation work that is already going on”

It was summed up lovingly by Ashmina Gurung, one of the organisers of the recent Nepalese appeal in the Chaplaincy that raised £244 for the cause. “In a poem written by Kriti Rana, she says ‘Mother Nepal, don’t let those cracks define you, you are built of majestic mountains that touch the stars.’”

We are so far away from the chaos, and can sometimes feel helpless about what we can tangibly do at this time of need. In these situations, let us hope and support people like Varun who are now making it their mission to save and sustain the lives of thousands of people. There is no better sentiment for humanity than that.


The Boar is supporting the Nepal Earthquake Rehabilitation Fund to aid the lives of thousands of Nepalese survivors. If you would like to donate or know more about the cause, please look for for more details. Anything you can give would make a massive difference, so please give generously.


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