With the monsoon rains now falling in Nepal, the coming few months will be uncomfortable ones for the inhabitants of Melamchi valley in their temporary homes. Staff member Rabin Niraula describes how some residents took the building of shelter into their own hands following the first earthquake, without waiting for assistance to arrive. There are nevertheless small but important ways in which an external organisation such as ours can back up their efforts.
Shrijana Giri, pictured above, is the mother of two young boys of primary school age. At the time of the first earthquake, she was living with her parents-in-law in the VDC of Palchok. Her husband had moved to Kathmandu and married again. Such rejection of first wives is not uncommon in the case of arranged marriages between young people who hardly know each other before being wed; at least in Shrijana’s case, her parents-in-law stood by her. However, following the destruction of their home following the earthquake, tensions rose – and with no money being sent by her husband, Shrijana was forced to establish a separate home with her two sons. This she has done in a different hamlet of the same VDC – using recovered wooden planks, tree log columns and corrugated sheets to build the walls of their temporary shelter.
Rabin writes of how impressed he was by her efforts in this regard. Nevertheless, as a single woman in a ward other than her supposed marital home, Shrijana was unable to access any relief support from the authorities. Our team was able to intercede on her behalf and ensure that her name is included on the list of households eligible for relief assistance. Nevertheless, Shrijana’s case is certainly not the only one of this nature – the earthquake has disrupted so many lives and families, and careful checking is needed that those who are the most in need of support actually receive it.
Meanwhile, in nearby Talamarang VDC, another example of prompt local action following the earthquake is apparent at the site of the Jageshwori Lower Secondary School. This school, which was reduced to rubble, lies in the upper part of the VDC, where the majority of residents – and school pupils – belong to the indigenous Tamang community. Encouraged by the head master, the parents, teachers and students worked together to clear the remains of the school buildings, recover any usable material, and establish seven temporary learning spaces.
Rabin reports that the students were thus able to recommence studies earlier than many others in the Melamchi valley – where no school remains intact. In most cases, parents and students have been overwhelmed by the destruction. As mentioned in an earlier posting, Helvetas is thus collaborating with Caritas in the construction of Temporary Learning Centres, working with local community members who contribute whatever labour they can. Through the COPILA project, Helvetas is providing school furniture in replacement of all that was damaged.
Another on-going activity is the construction of temporary latrines in collaboration with Solidar. The Helvetas team is also in regular contact with other agencies operating in the Melamchi valley – notably Save The Children, CARE, and OXFAM – to ensure that any overlap in interventions is minimised.