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Two years on: How Christians are helping to rebuild Nepal

The world watched in horror in 2015 as nearly 9,000 people were killed and 22,000 were injured in the Nepal earthquake. Today marks exactly two years since the quake struck. Tearfund's Louise Thomas explains how Christians have responded to the crisis

There’s a Nepali saying that goes "Only a few people will understand your grief. The rest just want a story to listen to."

Two years ago, on 25 April 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, followed by a second in May. Around 9,000 people died, thousands more were injured and a great deal of grief was unleashed.

People already living at the economic margins now faced the prospect of hunger and exposure to the elements, as they struggled to provide for themselves and their families. Tearfund had been working with vulnerable people in Nepal since 1970, so we were well placed to act in this period of post-earthquake grief.

Our project information officer Jude Collins was in Nepal when the earthquakes struck. She remembers a "difficult, uncertain and exhausting" time as Tearfund's local partners began rescuing people from the rubble and help them find medical help and temporary shelter.

"Many people - including me and my family - were living outside because the constant aftershocks made it unsafe to be inside. Yet despite this, our partners and the local churches poured themselves out for the people in their communities. It was only afterwards that we began to hear the stories of just how much they had done, and how many people had been blessed by their sacrificial actions."

Disabled single mother-of-two Prem Maya Dong is one of the most recent recipients of a new home:

She said: "My family and I were living in a completely damaged house, struggling with the cold during the winter and dampness during the monsoon.  All the food was ruined, the clothes were not enough to withstand the freezing cold winter."

Prem Maya Dong’s home in a remote, hilly village in Makwanpur district, has been re-built by Tearfund’s partner. It is one of over a hundred ‘model’ houses. This model house scheme gives families who are particularly vulnerable and unable to rebuild their own homes a model house built by local mason. These masons are trained by Tearfund’s partners and taught earthquake resistant construction techniques. We've been able to train over 1,300 masons so far. The resulting houses are used to showcase these special building methods to the community - methods which can make a huge difference during a quake: Nepal sits on the boundary of two massive tectonic plates.

Akal Bahadur Waiba, a widower caring for his father and living with his extended family, is one of the newly-trained masons. "Our house was taken by the earthquake and the little land where I grew food was taken away by a landslide," Akal said. He received hardly any compensation but was able to buy a small piece of land nearby for constructing a safe shelter for his family.  

Once trained, Akal was able to build his own house using the earthquake resilient techniques. "I never thought that I would have such a lovely and safe house again," he said.

Popular showcasing sessions, known locally as 'community orientations', allow people to watch, interact and learn about the earthquake resistant techniques during the building process, providing them with the motivation and knowledge needed to start their own rebuilding.

Akal Bahadur Waiba is now building other houses in his community: "I am practising and sharing the techniques with my other mason friends," he said. "I will continue my mason profession with the knowledge and experience that I have learnt."  

Prem Maya Dong, meanwhile, also expressed her gratitude: "I am very happy," she said. "I never thought of building my own house again as I am very poor and disabled and I used to think that my life would end under this damaged house. But I have faith and what I and my family need to do is keep praying and believing.

Through local partners, we've trained people in first aid and search and rescue and set up local committees equipped to prepare disaster risk management plans. We've also rehabilitated water systems, provided latrines and formed water safety user groups. Children are known to be at heightened risk of trafficking in the aftermath of disasters so we've helped set up children’s clubs to raise awareness of trafficking and abuse, and to encourage children to share their problems and opinions. 

Click here for more information on Tearfund’s post-earthquake recovery work in Nepal

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