In April and May 2015, Nepal was struck by a series of powerful earthquakes, leaving roughly 10,000 people dead and millions without homes. Throughout the 5 most affected districts, the infrastructure was mostly destroyed. As many as 6,000 school buildings with a total of 32,000 classrooms have totally collapsed – had the earthquake struck 24 hours earlier rather than on Saturday when schools are closed), Nepal would have had to mourn 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 around noon.
In the course of a five-day-long exploration trip on foot through the hard-hit district of Sindupalchowk, the village of Yangri was identified as the place and community which HL would adopt for relief and rebuilding. Yangri was chosen because it meets the following criteria: (1) great need and little own or other resources 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:
- Supplying emergency relief items within one week of the earthquake in May 2015. Supplied hundreds of tarps, and a total of 27,000kg of rice to the some 500 households in the Yangri valley over the course of 18 months following the earthquake
- Treating 180 patients at a medical camp in Yangri in July 2015,
- Rebuilding the drinking water supply system in the valley in June 2015
- Reconstructing the local Hydro power plant (60kW). Recommissioned in January 2016, this plant supplies electricity to all the communities in the valley.
- Facilitating the repair of the suspension bridge, which is the main access to Yangri
- Assisting with clean-up of individual houses – all the homes in the entire region have collapsed in the earthquake
- Building a model house, demonstrating the use of earthquake resistant building technology
- Running a temporary school for the children in the valley, to bridge the time 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. 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 expertise in engineering, construction and carpentry, we were finding ourselves well-positioned to join the relief efforts in meaningful ways.
Within days after the first quake, our international CEO traveled to Nepal in order to support our local staff, ensure continuation of all HL programs, and to gain first-hand information about the situation in the affected areas. He was tasked to explore possibilities for HL to help in a significant way and identify a place on which HL would focus its immediate relief work and long-term rebuilding effort.
Himalayan Life made the commitment to walk with the community of Yangri for the foreseeable future for the purpose of rebuilding both homes and infrastructure. In this way, we were aiming to make a significant impact in this one place. We intended 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)