In the spring of 2015, a series of powerful earthquakes struck Nepal. Roughly 9,000 people were killed and millions were left without homes. The most affected districts saw nearly all buildings collapse. Additionally, the tremors destroyed as many as 6,000 school buildings.
Had the earthquake struck 24 hours earlier when the schools were open, Nepal would have lost an entire generation of school children. Had it struck at night, there would have been few survivors. Thankfully, relatively few people were indoors when the earthquake struck at mid-day.
An exploration trip through the hard-hit district of Sindupalchowk brought us to the village of Yangri. The area was devastated but there was much potential for new life – and many places where we would be able to assist. Ultimately, Yangri was chosen as our focus as it met the following criteria:
(1) Great need and few existing resources necessary to rebuild
(2) Adequate size with regard to Himalayan Life’s ability and resources to help
(3) Desire to cooperate for rebuilding
(4) Local leadership
(5) Centrality of the region, even though remote in location
(6) Local school as potential anchor point for long-term partnership with this community.
Yangri Earthquake Relief & Rebuilding – The Short:
- Supplied emergency relief items within one week of the earthquake in May 2015. Supplied hundreds of tarps and 27,000kg of rice to the some 500 households in the Yangri valley over 18 months following the earthquake
- Treated 180 patients at a medical camp in Yangri in July 2015
- Rebuilt the drinking water supply system in June 2015
- Reconstructed the local Hydro power plant (60 kW) to supply electricity to all communities in the Yangri valley
- Facilitated the repair of the suspension bridge (the main access to Yangri)
- Assisted with clean-up of individual houses as all houses were destroyed
- Built a model house to the use of earthquake-resistant building technology
- Ran a temporary school for the children in the valley until a proper school was built (June 2015-April 2018)
- Project partner and supervision: HL-Switzerland jointly with HL-Canada
Yangri Earthquake Relief & Rebuilding – The Long:
Himalayan Life is not a relief organization as such; we are a charity in the ‘business’ of protecting, nurturing, and educating the children in the Himalayas. Overall, our expertise is in the field of street-children, vocational training, homes for abandoned and slave children, and social enterprise. Yet, with our dedicated local staff and many pre-existing connections as well as skills in engineering, construction and carpentry, we were well-positioned to join the relief efforts in meaningful ways.
Within days after the first quake, our international CEO traveled to Nepal. By doing so, he was able to support our local staff, ensured continuation of all HL programs, and gained first-hand information of the situation on the ground. In addition, he explored possibilities for HL to help in significant ways and identified Yangri as the place where immediate relief work and long-term rebuilding assistance would be welcomed.
Thus, Himalayan Life has made a commitment to walk with the community of Yangri for the foreseeable future. In this, we aim to make a significant impact in this one place. We set out to assist people in making better homes that are more earthquake resistant. We helped rebuild the previously existing infrastructure: the powerplant, the bridge, the drinking water system, and the school. In the long-term, we want to focus on education, as we firmly believe that education is one of the biggest contributors to sustainable and positive change for children and communities in the Himalayas (and elsewhere).
Meanwhile, the relief efforts in the Yangri valley have been completed. It is with much gratitude that we can say, that we have, in fact, been able to rebuild this community and help the process of breathing new life into this valley.
Photos courtesy of Peter Schaeublin (www.peterschaeublin.com)