Nepal: From Disaster Comes Hope

Saturday 25th of April 2015. It’s a typical Saturday morning in Nepal – children are playing noisily in the street, families are going about their day-to-day business and friends and neighbours have stopped to chat, when, just before midday, a massive earthquake strikes without warning. Nobody knew it then, but It was to be the worst quake in the region for more than 80 years. Cruelly, a second powerful earthquake will strike 17 days later, causing further damage and suffering for those who survived the initial disaster.

The strength of the quake caused buildings and temples to crumple and destroyed entire villages. Water systems in hillside communities were shattered; thousands of people killed and injured, and countless livelihoods wiped out in a matter of moments.

THANGDOR VILLAGE

Even before the earthquake, life in Thangdor was hard. Situated more than seven hours from the capital, this traditional farming community nestles in the Himalayas and has a population of just over 5,000. Thangdor had always been hard to reach but with the local infrastructure destroyed in the earthquake, it would quickly become known as ‘the forgotten village’. Our local team on the ground learnt about the devastation in Thangdor from the network of Sherpas who climb the remote Himalayas for a living. Over 50% of homes there were destroyed and two years on, many families continue to live in unsuitable, temporary shelters. Hardly any of the promised aid reached Thangdor and the villagers were left to pick up the pieces of their shattered community with little outside help.

Below you will find case studies documenting our ongoing work in the village of Thangdor and other communities in Nepal.

GORE'S STORY

How Be The Change helped a family cope with terrible loss and provided them with hopes for a bright future.

Gore Ghale lived in Thangdor but at the time of the quake was working in Malaysia. Like many other young men with construction-work experience, Gore had accepted an overseas post to support his growing family. When he said goodbye to his wife, Chawongmo, a few weeks earlier, it would be the last time he would see her alive.

When Gore heard about the terrible earthquake on the news, he immediately returned home to learn his wife had been killed and his four children traumatised. Gore’s eldest son, Prakash, was 14 at the time and the loss of his mother left him devastated and suicidal. It was many hours before Prakash found his mother; his desperate search had ended when her body was discovered in the debris from a landslide. In the weeks that followed, Prakash found himself unable to cope at school and eventually left to look after his younger siblings. Despite feeling emotionally broken Prakash helped care for his brother Adarsh (12), sister Nirmaya (9), and youngest brother Shakti (5). He also helped support his father who was devastated by the loss of his wife.

We first met Gore and his family in January 2017, some 20 months after the earthquake. Entering the village with Be The Change ambassadors from Claremont McKenna College, we were the first foreign faces most villagers had seen. The village leader, Neemasi, introduced us to key people in the community, welcomed us warmly and over time helped us identify the most vulnerable families, including Gore and his four young children.

We spent a lot of time with Gore, listening carefully as he gradually articulated his anxieties and fears for his family; it was obvious to us all that he was still in deep shock and struggling to cope.

We realised that as an experienced construction worker, Gore’s skills would be in high demand, particularly as so many buildings across the region had been destroyed or badly damaged. In full consultation with Gore, the village leader, and Be The Change team, it was agreed he should relocate to Kathmandu with his family and our team would help him do this. After so many months of feeling hopeless, Gore was delighted to have the opportunity to provide for his children once again. In his eagerness to relocate he was packed and ready within hours.

“Thangdor and the memories of my wife were slowly killing me and my children every single day, but meeting Linda was like a huge black cloud lifted, a chance of a second life.”

Soon after, the Be The Change team secured a small flat in Kathmandu, and covered the cost of food and rent for a few months until the family was settled and financially secure. 

Eight months later, we find Gore and his family doing well. The local team regularly meets Gore and his family, providing practical support, mentoring and updates. Gore is slowly and steadily rebuilding his life without his wife, supporting his family through construction work and as trekking company porter. The children have been able to return to school with the eldest, Prakash, receiving additional tutoring to make up for lost time. Today, Prakash needs little encouragement to talk about his dream of becoming an accountant, something he would never have considered possible before. He loves maths and whenever he speaks about the opportunities ahead of him, his smile lights up the room. Prakash’s younger brother, Shakti, is top of his class and adores school; Adarsh, who had been given into the care of a monastery, has returned; and Nirmaya is a happy young girl who greets the team with giggles and endless hugs.

“Just to look at my youngest boy thriving, top of his class and my eldest son with a smile and a purpose, I can feel my heart beginning to heal. I believe my wife is smiling on us. I am so very grateful and will work hard to give my family the best future.”

Be The Change intervention enabled Gore to support his family; his children can stay together, will finish their education and have a bright future ahead of them.

ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT