Monday, July 27, 2015

On 17 July and 18 July 2015, Habitat for Humanity Nepal distributed 500 temporary shelter kits to earthquake-affected families in Pedku Village Development Committee, including the village of Khatri, Sindhupalchowk district, Nepal. To date, HFH Nepal has distributed more than 2,000 temporary shelter kits in Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha, Dhading and Kavre districts. Related photos are available on the Asia-Pacific Disaster Response Portal. Interviews were conducted on 17 July and 18 July 2015. All photos by Habitat for Humanity Nepal/Sonny Krishnan and Sameer Bhattarai.    
Mica K.C. 

Mica K.C. (right) helps out her 90-year-old neighbor Hasta Kumari Khatri (left) by providing food sometimes. 
Mica K.C. (Khatri-Chhetri ), or Mica  “Didi”, a Nepali word for “big sister”,  gave a big smile  upon receiving a temporary shelter kit from Habitat for Humanity Nepal.
 “Now I don’t have to worry about the heavy rain soaking my bed, making it very hard for me to sleep at night. No more raindrops on my body! Thank you Habitat,” Mica, a 50-year-old widow, said excitedly.

The magnitude-7.8 earthquake on 25 April had badly damaged Mica’s stone-and-mud plaster house in Khatri village,  Pedku Village Development Committee, in Sindhupalchowk district. She had to take shelter in an adjoining shack that is used to store harvested corn.

Mica is among 500 families who received temporary shelter kits that were distributed by HFH Nepal on 17 July and 18 July. To date, Habitat staff together with local volunteers and community members, have distributed more than 2,000 kits to families in the worst-affected Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha, Dhading, and Kavre districts. Items in the kits, which include corrugated iron roofing sheets, iron rods and coiled wire, can be re-used in the construction of permanent houses.

Sindhupalchowk bore the brunt of the earthquake’s impact. According to the Nepal government, more than 66,000 houses, or two-thirds of the households, were destroyed or damaged in the district. There is an urgent need for shelter, particularly at the peak of the monsoon season. 

Despite her own hardship, Mica is sharing her shack with another widow and her children from a nearby village. “I couldn’t sit here doing nothing to help this husbandless woman and her children. She and her children have nowhere to take shelter. I have space so they can stay here,” she said.   
Mica’s husband died in a traffic accident 11 years ago and her two grown-up children, aged 23 and 25, are married with their own families in Kathmandu, more than 200 kilometers from Khatri village. According to Mica, widows and elderly women have great difficulties in getting help from male members of their community. Female-headed households also face additional challenges during disasters. Apart from caring for their children and the elderly, women have to take on tasks that men could have helped with, such as clearing the debris, putting up the roof and hauling construction materials. “We women, who have no husbands, have to help one another,” said Mica.

The women’s mutual help extended to 90-year-old Hasta Kumari Khatri. Mica and several women got together to hire laborers and rent a truck to collect the temporary shelter kits including one for Hasta Kumari. They are also taking turns to provide food to the elderly woman.  

Hasta Kumari was out in the field, cutting grass to feed her cows when the ground shook violently on 25 April. She returned home to find it reduced to rubble. Hasta Kumari had to share a large tarpaulin with 300 others for nearly a month. “There wasn’t enough food and we often got very wet when it rained,” she recalled.
Mica K.C. (fourth from left, with white necklace) and women from her community are prepared to build

 temporary shelters by themselves if help from male members is not available.
Mica said: “I’m really happy to be getting the temporary shelter kit and I know my neighbors will help me rebuild my house. I’ve contacted my male relatives from neighboring villages to help us construct the temporary shelters, using the kits distributed by Habitat. If they are too busy to help us, we ourselves will build them and pool our money to employ laborers for the heavy work.”


Photos of Mica K.C. can be found in the Asia-Pacific Disaster Response Portal > NEPAL: Earthquake (April 2015) > Photos > 17-19 July 2015 - Sindhupalchowk 

For more information, please contact: Geno Teofilo, Media Relations and Disaster Communications Manager, Asia-Pacific, Habitat for Humanity International via, mobile: +63 905 669 5985

Phil Johnstone from New Zealand shares his experience of removing rubble for earthquake-affected families together with young local volunteers

What a privilege to spend a day clearing rubble with an enthusiastic group of socially-minded Nepali student volunteers. 

My first experience as a Habitat volunteer was possibly the dustiest day of my life.  It was poignant to work alongside the owners of homes destroyed by the earthquake of 25 April 2015.  It’s hard to fathom what it must be like to see the home you have lived in for 60 years reduced to a pile of bricks, stones, wood, mud and scattered possessions. 

But from start to finish, the energy, positive attitude and fun displayed by my 25 fellow volunteers turned a long, hot July day into an unexpectedly joyous experience.

Phil Johnstone works alongside other volunteers during Habitat for Humanity Nepal’s rubble removal activity in Sankhu, Kathmandu district on 3 July 2015. (Habitat for Humanity Nepal/Sameer Bhattarai)

We assembled on 3 July at around 9.30am in the badly damaged village of Sankhu, Kathmandu district, a 45-minute drive north-east of the capital Kathmandu.  A majority of buildings lay flattened – with rubble piled high amidst half-collapsed walls.

Roughly half the volunteer group were female first-year university students – social work majors doing a Bachelor of Public Health degree. The rest were guys – either still in high school or in their first semester at university. We geared up with gloves, hard hats and masks, and following a group photo and a safety briefing, the work began.

I spent the morning on the first floor of a house, removing what remained of two walls that used to support a now non-existent roof.  A small proportion of the bricks were suitable for re-use and these were carefully passed to volunteers at ground level and stacked. The walls were devoid of reinforcing, and bricks seemed to be only held together by mud. Little wonder these traditional houses proved no match for the two major quakes that took over 8,800 lives.

Fortunately for me, this rubble-clearing day featured a special lunch – a thank-you treat marking the last day of work by local volunteers, mobilized by Habitat for Humanity Nepal since the first earthquake on 25 April, before the monsoon kicked in.
Out came the mobile phones and the selfie stick, and our group was like any bunch of laughing, excitable young people on a shared mission. 
(Above, foreground) Bhumika Parajuli clears debris from a destroyed house. (Below, in pink) Home owner Mangal Maya Malla, 60, with volunteers and Habitat staff who helped her save wood and bricks from her destroyed home. (Habitat for Humanity Nepal/Phil Johnstone)
Over lunch, high school student Ezekiel Rai, 19, explained why he and his friends Simon and Ismayal have chipped in on all 20 volunteer days.  “Our exams had finished, and we are the youth.  If we don’t take a step to help, that wouldn’t be good.  It has been hard work but when we build a shelter and see a family move in, we feel proud and have joy in our hearts to have helped our country.”

Similarly, Bhumika Parajuli, 19, is driven by a strong sense of community connection.  “I’m a public health student so it’s my duty to serve the public,” she said.  “Doing this work with Habitat is our way to express what we aspire to do in public health in the future. This has been the best experience for us.”

My afternoon was spent pulling out wood and bricks from a pile of rubble that used to be the two-story home of Mangal Maya Malla, 60.  Unmarried, Mangal had lived in the house all her life.  She spent the day working alongside the volunteers – stacking bricks and pitching in with various digging tools.

“It’s a difficult task for these young people but it’s great for me.  I was helpless but today I am not alone.  I am so grateful.”

Her words capped a tiring yet inspiring day. Thanks, Habitat, for helping people left homeless by Nepal’s earthquakes, and enabling a new generation to step up and contribute.   

Phil Johnstone is a New Zealand public relations consultant who is working toward a career as a disaster and conflict zone communicator.

Monday, June 1, 2015

A month after a devastating magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, 2015, Habitat for Humanity Nepal, on 26th May 2015, went to Kavre to continue its Disaster Relief (DR) activity of distributing Transitional Shelter Kits to the affected people of PipalTaar, Ward No. 4 of the Paanchkhaal Municipality. This site was were HFH – Nepal had conducted its Scout Build on August 2013.

Our partner organization, Gramin Mahila Bikash Bahu-Udeshiya Sahakari Sanstha, helped us identify the affected community in coordination with the District Disaster Relief Committee (DDRC), the District Development Committee (DDC) and the local municipality. Gramin identified 93 houses to who we distributed the Transitional shelter materials, which contained materials that can be re-used in the construction of permanent houses, and made 5 demonstration houses.

We also came across some visually – impaired people who, although were affected by the earthquake, hadn’t received any kind of relief till now. 28 of them received CGI sheets, in coordination with Blind Youth Association, Sukedhara, so that they could make a Transitional Shelter with help from their family and friends.

We had a 100% community engagement, as can be seen in the pictures below. The community leader, Simraj, made a highly commendable coordination, which is why the materials were very well received, by the community, too.

Habitat for Humanity plans to begin building the first 100 permanent houses in Kavre in June. The aim is to rebuild thousands of homes across Nepal, depending on the funding secured. The following are stories of earthquake survivors who received the temporary shelter kits from Habitat. They were interviewed in PipalTaar on May 27, 2015. All photos by HFH Nepal/Sameer Bhattarai.

Indra Bahadur Danuwar

Having survived the earthquake, Indra Bahadur Danuwar has decided to rebuild his house after the monsoon season is over.
When farmer Indra Bahadur Danuwar and his family of 8 felt the tremors from the April 25 earthquake, their immediate reaction was to hold each other’s hands. They were then harvesting tomatoes in the field outside their house. After the tremors stopped, Indra, 51, and his family members ran to the center of the village to help people trapped under the rubble.

Due to major cracks on the walls of his house, Indra said  he and his family had to stay out in the open for a week after the earthquake. Finally, Indra was able to walk to a village nearby where he bought a tarpaulin which provided shelter for his family.

With many aftershocks, Indra feels that people are scared and unable to resume with a normal life. He admits that he is also affected. “My heart still beats very fast when I have to enter the house to retrieve things as I feel very unsafe inside it,” said Indra.

However, he wants to move on. He plans to rebuild  a one-storey house with sun-dried bricks after the monsoon season as multi-storey houses are risky in his view. He said, “The demonstration shelters that Habitat built look very sturdy; they will protect us from storms and heavy rain. I have received the temporary shelter kit and I will build the shelter myself.”

Sanila Danuwar

(From left) Sanila Danuwar, her daughter and her husband, along with her cousins, outside the temporary shelter that Habitat set up. Sanila is thankful that her family will be protected from heavy rain.
Sanila Danuwar, a 27-year-old farmer, was working in the field when the earthquake struck on April 25, 2015. She did not realize what had happened until she heard shouts around her. She looked up to see  several houses collapsing, including her neighbor’s house. Her first thought was of  three-year-old daughter who was in the house with Sanila’s parents. After running up the hill, Sanila found that her house was partially  damaged but her daughter and parents were fine. Her parents had held on to her daughter and stayed close to the door. 

Sanila and her family of five then went to an open space and shared a tent with another eight relatives. Sanila and her family could not continue living in their house as they were afraid that their neighbor’s house would collapse on their house.

On May 27, when Habitat for Humanity distributed temporary shelter kits to families in PipalTaar, Sanila was very much involved in setting up her own temporary shelter. She said: “I am very happy that Habitat is helping my community by distributing temporary shelter kits and giving us a demonstration. The shelter that the volunteers have built will protect me and my family members from heavy rainfall.”

Pabitra Danuwar

Heavily pregnant Pabitra Danuwar (left) feels the loss of shelter most keenly as her house
(right) is not safe to live in.

Pabitra Danuwar, 26, was 8 months pregnant when the first earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, 2015. She was buying groceries in a village near the PipalTaar community where she lived when she felt the ground move. She lost her balance and fell down on the street. After about 15 minutes, her sisters came looking for her and took her to a place where she could sit down and rest. She suffered a lot of pain for a few days after the earthquake when the aftershocks were frequent. Despite the pain, she walked from her house to the nearest hospital, an hour away, to seek medical attention.

At present, she is staying in a tent together with 14 members of her extended family. Pabitra and her family do not feel safe living inside their house which has several cracks on its walls. “Losing my house has been the hardest thing to bear since the earthquake hit. The tent that we are staying in will not be able to protect us from heavy storms,” said Pabitra.

According to Pabitra, people in the community are afraid of being attacked by wild animals, even tigers, when they are staying out in the open.  She is very uncertain as to what the future holds for her and her yet-to-be born child. She hopes the aftershocks will stop soon and she can have a safe delivery of a healthy child.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Habitat for Humanity Nepal staff along with volunteers from various places like Nepal Scouts, Nepal Academy of Tourism & Hotel Management (NATHM) College, Rotary Club (Lalitpur District Chapter) and others had been to Bungamati, Lalitpur for the purpose of removing rubbles from few areas, in and around the capital, which have faced the most devastation by the 7.8 Richter scale earthquake that befell Nepal on 25th April 2015.

Rubble removal is the first step of a lot of other different activities Habitat for Humanity Nepal has in the pipeline as its Disaster Response (DR).

       Ashok Maharjan
Dhokaasi Sata: Tole, Bungamati, Lalitpur, Nepal

47 year old Ashok had his 4 storey house come down due to the 7.8 Richter scale earthquake that hit the capital on Saturday, 25th April 2015. However, he was lucky enough to not have any of the 9 members: his mother, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister-in-law, 2 nephews including himself inside the house when it came crumbling down. It was a 45-46 yr old house.

They’re currently taking shelter under a tent with clothing and food being additional problems.

He says he, among his family, is having difficulty breathing and ENT (Ear Nose Throat) problems due to the dust and also fever during the night as he engages himself the whole day in clearing the rubble where his house once stood.

        Krishna Maharjan
Laachhi Tole, Bungamati, Lalitpur, Nepal

Made after the devastating earthquake of 1990 BS, Krishna’s house is nothing but rubble now. With 6 members: mother, wife, son, brother, grandfather and himself residing in the house, during the earthquake it was his brother along with grandfather and some other relatives who were inside the house. Although his brother seems to have sustained back and feet problems his grandfather is absolutely fine. He doesn’t have the slightest of scratch!

Just like the most of the survivors, they’re also staying in a tent. All the rubble around, which creates dust, is bringing about cough problems to them too.

Friday, May 8, 2015

25th April 2015, Saturday, suddenly became a day to remember in the Nepalese history on 11:56 am. A rocking magnitude of 7.8 Richter scale hit Nepal bringing down most of its cultural heritage which were in the core areas of major cities like Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. The number of lives lost till now has been recorded as 8020 (source: and still counting, with an expectation of it to go even higher in the days to come.

Although the loss of thousands of lives in itself is sad, the loss of the cultural heritages, some listed in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage, is equally depressing. The country is not only in bereavement due to the loss of lives but the difficulty most will face now due to the destruction of those heritages which served as a means of livelihood for a lot and source of revenue for the nation as it played a crucial role in Nepal’s tourism sector.

However, the Nepalese aren’t backing down. Everyone, from the old to the kids, are helping out with whatever resources they have with them. Such is the spirit of the Gurkhas, the people from the land of the Himalayas.

And in this spirit, the Habitat for Humanity International Nepal Disaster Response (DR) Team along with people from volunteer organizations like Nepal Scouts, students from NATHM College and from other varied sectors have come together to enforce their spirits with whatever resources we have at hand.

We have removed most of the rubble in the Harisiddhi area of Lalitpur, one of the most hit areas of the district and plan to move ahead with rubble removal at other areas of need.

HFH - Nepal staff along with volunteers clearing rubble 
at Nibha of Harisiddhi in Lalitpur district
Volunteers passing the collected rubble in trays to speed up work

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Youth Build - Habitat for Humanity Nepal

Between March 17 and 21, 2015, Habitat for Humanity (HfH) Nepal took part in the fourth annual Habitat Youth Build (HYB), a Habitat for Humanity Asia Pacific initiative dedicated to partnering with young people to create change. This year, fifteen different Asian chapters took part in HYB to combat poverty housing through building houses and providing education. HfH Nepal’s goal was mobilize 500,000 youth volunteers to build 5,000 houses. This year was a spectacular success, and this goal was easily surpassed. 7,491 houses were constructed or improved thanks to the hard work of 624,244 volunteers. 

HfH Nepal’s partner organizations were instrumental in the success of Youth Build 2015. They conducted an amazing amount of different builds and training sessions to provide decent homes for people in need, and to educate them on construction as well as hygiene and sanitation. Over 6,500 houses were constructed during Youth Build, and more than 850 were renovated, changing the lives of thousands of families around the country. 

The Rural Women Development Centre (RWDC), encouraged local people to learn construction techniques as part of the HYB, and helped to build over a thousand homes for people in need. In addition, they mobilized an amazing 285,000 volunteers, more than any other partner organization. In Kailali, the Kisan Multipurpose Co-operative Ltd taught people to make bricks and use mud plaster to build sturdy homes. Kisan also helped built 460 homes, giving locals a chance to apply their new skills.

In Morang, Jeevan Bikash educated children about the importance of keeping their environment clean and promoted personal hygiene. They also built 1,724 houses, the most of any partner organization. Mahuli Samudayik Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha in Saptari and Kisan Nawa Pravita delivered WASH training to students and taught local people proper construction techniques.

Top Row:  A NawaPrativa build, A group from one of the Kisan Multipurpose Co-operative projects, Students practice washing their hands after receiving training from JeevanBikash in Morang.
Bottom Row:  A house constructed by the Rural Women Development Centre, Some of the students who received WASH training from Mahuli Samudayik Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha

In addition, a number of Habitat Youth Build Ambassadors reached out and added their support to the Youth Build Campaign. Santosh Shah traveled to Sunsari to help fire victims. The well known T.V. journalist Prem Baniya helped construct houses in Ghorahi, Dang and participated in a press conference to raise awareness about poverty housing in Nepal. Reecha Sharma, the actress, painted houses in Kailali. Nirnaya Nsk not only helped in construction in Kavre, but also entertained the community by performing songs. He also advocated for better housing in Nepal. 

Clockwise from top:  PremBaniya helps construct a house in Ghorahi,  NirnayaNsk, works to build a house in Kavre, Santosh Shah helps the  families of the fire victims

Youth Build made a real difference in lives of many people in Nepal. One of the beneficiaries was Thagendra Chaudhary from Dang, a former bonded laborer who used to live with his family in a mud hut with thatched roof. The family’s poor housing situation led them to be marginalized from the community, and their hand-to-mouth existence made building a new home seem impossible. However, thanks to the hard work of volunteers during Youth Build, the family now has a new house made of bamboo with a galvanized iron sheet roof. Thagendra Chaudhary expressed his gratitude and delight, saying, “I am very pleased to have a new house. This is comparatively bigger and more comfortable. I heartily want to thank Habitat Nepal for serving needy families like mine.” 

Sharmila Chapagain, another beneficiary, exclaimed, “The future is bright,” after seeing the new house that was built for her and her two children during Youth Build by Global Village volunteers from St. John's School, in Vancouver, Canada. She had never had her own home before, but now has a safe and comfortable place to raise her family. 

From left to right: Volunteers work to build Thagendra Chaudhary’s new home, Sharmila Chapagain’s house under construction, the Global Village team from St. John’s School, Canada

Friday, March 13, 2015

       One of Habitat for Humanity Nepal’s current strategic goals is to improve the lives of 24,000 Ex-Kamaiya people by 2016. Under the Kamaiya system, which was abolished in the mid-2000s, thousands of Tharu worked as bonded laborers to repay debts owed by their ancestors.  After the Kamaiya system was banned, many Tharu households received land grants from the government. However, the ex-Kamaiya communities still face a variety of problems.  Houses are basic, small, and unhygienic, and often lack access to clean water. Furthermore, land plots are often too small for traditional farming techniques.

The Ghorahi Community Development Project seeks to improve living conditions for Tharu ex-Kamaiya households in the Dang District, in the Western Region of Nepal. The project began in February 2014, and will continue until January 2017.
The participants of the training sessions with the home partners 

Habitat for Humanity held two mason training session in the village of Masina in the Ghorahi Municipality in Dang. There were two training sessions, both of which took place in Masina. The first took place from February 23 through March 1, and the second began on February 25th and ended on March 4. Both sessions were well attended. The first session, which was sponsored by The Charitable Fund, had 33 participants, 28 of whom were women. The second, which was sponsored by Korean International Coperation Agency (KOICA) had 28 trainees, 21 of whom were women. Each session was also attended by several skilled masons, who helped train the participants.

These training sessions not only provided the participants with income generating skills, but also began construction on two houses for families in need. Bindyararani and Kaliprasad Chaudhary live in Masina with their two sons, Anup and Janak. They are seasonal farmers, but lease the land that they work on. They only own a small piece of land for their house, which was badly damaged during the monsoons last year. The heavy rains and the floods damaged the walls, and shifted the foundation enough that the whole house was tilted. 
Their neighbors, Juerani and Thaglal Chaudhary, also suffered similar problems. The walls of their house cracked due to the floods, which made the whole structure unstable.

The two families were in dire need of new homes, so that they could have a safe and sturdy place to live. Through the mason training, Habitat for Humanity Nepal was able to begin construct on these new homes, which were made of mud brick, with stone foundations. When complete, the houses will have two stories, as well as an attic.

The mason training took place over the course of a week. During this time, the participants learned how to construct a house step by step. They were taught construction techniques, how to use tools, and everything else that they needed to know in order to construct decent homes.  Every day began with an hour of theory, before the trainees went to the build site and learned from practical hands on experience.

On the first day, the participants learned how to create a foundation. They learned how to measure and dig a foundation, and on how deep it should be. They then went and dug and laid for the house. On the second day of training, the trainees laid two feet of stone masonry on the foundation, and then started laying bricks. They also created a mud floor on top of the foundation, and learned how to build a well.

Various stages in the construction process 

On the third day, the participants continued the brick work and placed window and door frames in the walls. They learned how to check if they were straight, as well as how to make a good quality mud mortar. They also began constructing a well, as access to clean water is vital for both preventing diseases and maintaining good sanitation.

The participants finished the well on the fourth day, and continued working on the brick walls. In addition, they learned to make bamboo scaffolding.  Work on the walls continued on the fifth day, where the participants also placed the timber beams that would serve as the base for the next floor.

The last two days of the program were spent finishing the first floor, and continuing to work on the second. On the final day of the program there was a certification ceremony for the participants. The participants in the KOICA session also received tools of their own, which surprised and delighted them.

HFH Nepal collected feedback from the participants, all of whom said they were very happy with the training. They were all excited to apply the skills that they had learned, and many of them said that they would help their neighbors and relatives with masonry problems.

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