Rising up from the devastated ground
Seven-year old Anisha isn’t scared any more. She jumps around the hillsides with her younger brother Rajan. Her mother cooks delicious chicken and her father runs a poultry farm. They recently moved into a new earthquake-resilient house.
The family belongs to the Pahari community in Sindhupalchowk, an endangered indigenous group believed to be living only in Nepal, with a population of around 14 thousand.
Everyone in the family looks happy. But that hasn’t always been the case over the last two years. Shivahari, Anisha’s father, was working as a labourer in the neighboring town of Banepa, and Kamala, her mother, was collecting fodder in the nearby jungle while the children were playing inside the house. That was on 25 April 2015, the day of the earthquake. When the couple ran wildly back home, they found their house collapsed on the ground. But something more important had escaped: both of the children were safe. Anisha had jumped from the window and rescued little Rajan.
That evening, the family sheltered under a stack of straw in their buffalo shed. Caritas Nepal stuck by thousands of families from the first day of the catastrophe, camping out with them in the field under tarpaulins: sharing their sorrows, giving them hope. Anisha’s family received a grant and technical support from Caritas.
“Our house was made of stones and mud. We cleared the rubble and stayed in a tent. It has been almost two years since then,” Kamala recalls. “It used to be so cold and windy; we and our children got sick several times.” Shivahari also attended business planning training with Caritas. Motivated by what he learned, he started a small poultry farm near his house, with support from a business grant.
Now the father, 27, is hoping for a dignified life as the owner of his own business. “I started working as a child labourer at 10. Now I am a free man after more than 15 years of servitude. Thanks to Caritas for making this happen!” The family was eventually able to build and move into a new little home: an earthquake-resilient house, better than their previous one.
The house is made of cement bricks, with two rooms and an outside kitchen. Its construction included iron rods, a damp-proof course (DPC) barrier and a new pillar system to support the corners.
Anisha, who has experienced more than 500 earthquakes and aftershocks since her early childhood, says that she likes her new house very much. “It looks strong and I feel safe”, she says shyly.
Everyone worked hard: neighbours set up labour exchanges, and 50 of them worked together for 30 days to complete the rebuilding. Transporting the materials up into the mountains took up most of the time.
“We were worried and scared all the time. We never thought of building a house of our own.” Shivahari is amazed himself at what he’s accomplished. This has been a major achievement for his family. Caritas has been supporting 5000 families to rebuild their houses; to date, around 500 families like Shivahari’s have already finished constructing new homes. Caritas technicians are helping villagers to build according to proper house design principles recommended by the government.
“Caritas staff would come regularly, inspect our construction and advise our masons. We wouldn’t have known how to make houses like this before. We have learnt many things from Caritas”, says Shivahari.
“I used to live like a slave before, but now I am my own master. I am more than happy.” Shivahari is satisfied with his new life; and Kamala, as a mother of two, can now breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to a brighter future for her children. She now runs a small grocery shop from her house as an
additional source of income for their family. She never thought that they could succeed in such a way. The other villagers look at them with new eyes of admiration: many come to ask their advice about home-based entrepreneurship.
The family earnings have doubled: they earn around Rs.20-25,000 a month altogether, enough for them to live in the village and send their children to school. This is a major change in their lives: before the earthquake, Shivahari used to make just Rs.10-12,000 a month as a labourer. “Our hope was lost, but now it’s restored,” Kamala says with satisfaction.