By Nora Vasconcelos
It often happens that when we learn that a terrible disaster has affected people , we wonder what we could do to help them, and some sense of impotence frequently comes with that question. But sometimes, we actually can help, and Jo Carroll has taken action into her concerns, launching a £1500 appeal to build a house in Nepal.
“There’s a family in Nepal who will be deeply grateful for anything you feel you can give, however small.”
In a short interview with her, Jo has told me that some time ago, when she was visiting a small village in the mountains, affected by the earthquake that hit Nepal last April, she came across a house with the upper storey heaped above the ground floor, dust and rubble everywhere, and a family living as best they could in what was left of their house. However, every time it rains there is a risk that what is left of the building will collapse and bury this family – a couple, his mother, and two small children.
‘This is a small village. The big charities are too busy with the need in Kathmandu to begin to consider the damage in remote areas. But, my guide told me, this man can rebuild his house himself. He needs only £1500 – an impossible amount for him, but surely within our means’. Then, Jo said; ‘I’ll pay for his house,’ having not a clear idea at that point how she was going to do it. ‘I only knew that, instead of being overwhelmed by the need, this was something I could do.’
– What is your goal and deadline?
– I’m travelling again in the New Year, so I have only a short window to collect this £1500. However, I will have an ebook out before Christmas, with all proceeds going to the appeal, so if I haven’t made the money by then hopefully the ebook will top up the rest.
– Once all the money is collected, how is it going to be the process of building the house?
I know this man can rebuild his house himself. I’ve seen other buildings he has worked on in the village, and so I know he has the skills to do this. In addition, other men from the village will help – as he will help them.
This family will move back on once the work is done. When the children grow, the son and his family will live there. It will shelter them for generations.
– How’s been the experience of collecting the money?
I launched this appeal with some trepidation. It does seem rather a crazy idea, building a house in Nepal. But, when I thought about it, what did I have to lose?
The support of other writers – and from almost everyone I know on social media – has been humbling.
I had no idea what the reaction would be, but they have been universally kind and encouraging. It is wonderful to know that so many people are there to support a family they have never known. The kindness of strangers continues to inspire me.
– Have you organized something like this before?
No, I’ve never done anything like this before – I’m happy to cheer on the fundraisers from the wings, but have always been reluctant to take centre stage.
Will I do it again? Who knows. I won’t make a habit of it. But if I come across a need like this again – well, we’ll have to wait and see.
* JO CARROLL gave up her work as a play therapist with traumatised children in her mid-50s to trek round the world on her own. Now safely home, she has time to write, walk the Wiltshire downs, treasure her daughters and grandchildren, write poems and short stories, and tell anyone who will listen about her travels.
*All images courtesy of Jo Carroll