Nepal Earthquake: One Remote Mountain Community Builds Itself Back
In Banskhara village, north eastern Nepal, the only house left standing after the April 2015 earthquake was shopkeeper Binisha Tamamang’s home and shop. Made out of wood and corrugated iron it was one of the less durable houses in the village before the quake but now, six months on, it sits among a sea of other similar shelters.
The fact that there are any other temporary shelters at all is largely due to the efforts of three men; Tshiring Tamang, Bishal Tamang and Tshiring Dorje Tamang. Just one week after their homes were destroyed, and before aid was able to reach their remote village, they took the initiative to start rebuilding. But as self-taught skilled laborers they didn’t just stop with their own homes. They realized that others were not as fortunate as themselves with the skills to easily rebuild. “People were having problems and we felt that at this time we should help them,” says 32 year old Tshiring. “We didn’t feel good about us having shelter and others not having it. We don’t have money to help people so we decided to support them with our skills,” he adds.
This small construction team soon realized, however, that if they were going to build back an entire village they would need much more man power, but they lacked the tools and materials for others to use. Once CARE arrived in the village with iron sheeting and construction tools the group were able to realize this dream and they quickly grew from three to five and eventually they had up to 10 people working at any given time on rebuilding homes.
It took them almost a month to build back all 15 houses in the village and they worked tirelessly, in shifts, throughout the day. Some houses took as little as one day to build, while others took up to a week. If people weren’t able to salvage materials themselves from the rubble then the team also helped them with this.
Now that they have at least a basic roof over their heads the team and their neighbors are starting to worry about their livelihoods which are mainly based around agriculture. People are still reluctant to work in their fields as they fear a third earthquake and many people’s crops were destroyed and animals killed. “All our work on developing is done using our intelligence and right now people’s minds are too disturbed and it’s going to take a long time to recover from that,” says Tshiring Dorje.
CARE is also supporting the community of Banskhara to do this; providing vegetable seeds, training on how to grow them, storage bags and cash vouchers to the most vulnerable in order for individuals and families to prioritize their own most urgent needs.
Despite all the continuing challenges Banskhara’s construction team are still positive about the future. “If we get materials we can easily build more permanent houses” says Tshiring; “whatever we can do we, will do.”
Six months after the first earthquake CARE is now beginning the next recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction phase of the post-earthquake response; helping families rebuild with safer techniques, training on proper home building and guidance on the best and more durable building materials to use, but there remains a long way to go. According to Tshiring it will take at least five to ten years for life in Banskhara to get back to normal, and the psychological scars will likely take even longer.