Two years on from the Nepal earthquake; how we’re helping.
By Claudine Harris, former World Jewish Relief employee turned global traveller.
Two years ago a catastrophic earthquake hit Nepal, killing 9000 people and leaving millions homeless. And you don’t have to look far to see the damage and destruction still evident across large parts of the country. In Kathmandu’s main square, temples reduced to rubble in 2015 are yet to be rebuilt and piles of bricks and stone sit idle on the roadside as wooden beams prop up crack ridden walls. And as the country continues on its slow road to recovery, its residents are having to do the same.
World Jewish Relief launched its Nepal Earthquake emergency appeal two years ago, when the extent of the disaster first became apparent. Initially it responded with emergency aid but quickly established a livelihoods programme to try and help people get back on their feet and even improve their standard of living.
Takeshi is World Jewish Relief’s Livelihoods Programmes Manager in Nepal and tells us how the charity is helping Nepal’s poorest rural communities to recover. Along with its local partner, Friends Service Council Nepal (FSCN), they provide agricultural training and support and equip the families with the tools they need to get started.
These are some of the most isolated communities around the Kathmandu Valley and are often discriminated against by the outdated caste system. Many people in these communities lost their homes, land and livestock in the earthquake.
Janaki is 51 and lives with her son and daughter-in-law in a temporary shelter, a stone’s throw from their original home. Corrugated iron sheets act as the roof and are weighed down with stones to stop them being blown off by the brutal strong and cold winds. Through the World Jewish Relief training Janaki has been learning how to grow broccoli. Pointing to the stems of tiny broccoli plants poking out of the soil she tells me, “I like learning new things” and enthusiastically describes how her second crop of plants will be ready in 3 months.
Broccoli may not seem like a big earner, but compared to the money she would make growing maize, the difference is immense. She can make 25,000 rupees (£300) per yield and with this extra income is able to buy fertilizers, grow her business and start rebuilding her home. She’s still waiting to receive her 300,000 rupee compensation from the government and is keen to start reclaiming her land before the government requisitions it for new construction and infrastructure projects like widening roads.
In many of the villages men are conspicuously absent. Many of them work elsewhere, often joining the army, which provides a stable income and offers a generous pension scheme. Giyanu lives with her two daughters-in-law and their young children, who often help out in the fields.
Giyanu shows me how she grows the broccoli seeds in trays before transferring the small stems to the ground, a skill she learned from her training. The family is also living in a temporary structure and the income from the broccoli will make a significant difference to the family.
“These families are tough”, Takeshi explains, “and they know how to survive. But what we do is give them is a chance to learn something new and diversify what they grow. It means they do not have to rely on only one crop being a success.” World Jewish Relief is increasing knowledge and skills within Nepal’s most rural and vulnerable communities. By learning how to grow a variety of crops, knowing how to make the most of them and understanding local markets, families who have lost everything are now better prepared for the future. All thanks to the generosity of the UK Jewish community, two years ago.