Houses and schools collapsed. Families and dreams were shaken. The devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25th left the country deeply wounded and traumatized. Upwards of 10,000 people were killed, thousands were injured, and approximately 2.8 million people lost their homes.
While most global news headlines completely dropped Nepal a few days later, or at least after mid-May's second large quake, the quakes' impacts and dangers have not at all disappeared on the ground. People of all ages have lived in constant fear for weeks, as hundreds of aftershocks and tremors have arrived day by day. Further, Nepal's monsoon season is continually challenging rebuilding efforts, bringing frequent landslides and destroying roads to villages that need aid.
Many of our Life Vision Academy students and women from our Haushala cooperative are from villages that were completely wiped out. The dormitory building at LVA cracked, forcing our students and staff to sleep outside for weeks. We set up camp on our basketball courts, gathering together materials for makeshift tents. Our kids were forced to spend many nights outside in the rain, but we were fortunate that everyone was alive and safe.
CYF immediately started looking for ways to provide shelter for our students. By mid-May, we had installed our first prefabricated house, thanks to the prefab housing company that prioritized our children and gave us a year to pay off the price.
Quarters were cramped, but we were able to fit enough beds for our junior students (ages 3-7) and all our girl students. Unfortunately, the older boys remained outside in the tents. Our priority has been to get them inside as soon as possible - but, as boys will be boys, they say they've been having fun camping out!
In August, we were able to set up our second and third prefabricated houses. Thanks again to our incredible donors and a loan from the company, all of our children and live-in staff have a roof over their heads. We are so grateful for the support we’ve had so far!
This also wouldn’t have been possible without our friends and staff members on the ground, literally building these houses from the ground up. Because the earthquake has caused such extreme labor shortages, we pulled together our own labor team to pour the cement, lay the bricks, and set up each entire house. From LVA staff members to our women’s cooperative didis, from older students to friends from Kathmandu, we had pairs and pairs of selfless hands determined to make a safe, comfortable home for our kids.
Our earthquake relief work didn’t stop with our school. Children and Youth First has worked with other community organizations and formed the CYF Collective, a network for earthquake relief that was featured on CNN. Together, we have actively coordinated earthquake relief work in numerous villages. We delivered daily necessities including food, medical supplies, clothing items and tents to villages where relief efforts had not reached yet. We reached villages in remote areas of Lalitpur, Sindhupalchowk, Kavrepalanchowk, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Nuwakot, Gorkha, Sindhuli, and Dhading districts. We set guidelines for distributing the supplies to respect the ownership and responsibility that local community organizations have in their village and to ensure the proper monitoring of our work.
The work has not been easy, but we have carefully and collectively powered through.
We have also partnered up with four government schools that were destroyed in the earthquakes, to help them build temporary shelters and classrooms. We provided metal sheets for reconstruction work, school supplies and toys for the kids, and more. Our kids also traveled to these government schools to perform for their students, spreading smiles through art, music, and friendship during this difficult time.
Children and Youth First believes education is the most important institution in a community. The earthquakes, however, have rendered it impossible for many to continue running a school. UNICEF estimates that around 24,000 classrooms in Nepal were damaged, leaving 950,000 children out of school.
Children are vulnerable to tragic disasters and need to have a place to learn, grow, heal from the trauma, and be supported by their peers and teachers. We want to provide as much help as we could give to the devastated communities. We selected the four government schools we support based on the destruction they endured, the amount of resources they received for support, and political affiliation of the village. We took political affiliation into consideration because villages with political ties can easily receive help while those without ties experience difficulties getting support.
We have also set up two new hubs of our Haushala cooperative in villages for long-term business opportunities. Like much of our earthquake relief, this entire project is led by Kamala didi, our incredible leader in the Haushala women’s cooperative. Under Kamala’s leadership, we have installed sewing machines and will be teaching women and men how to stitch, sew and knit.
These newly trained members will take orders that are outsourced from our cooperative’s home base. Through these hubs, we will also train women in skills such as carpentry and metalwork. These skills will help the women lead rebuilding efforts, take control over their lives and their communities’ obstacles. Our training will also allow the women to earn independent income in a sustainable way and challenge traditional gender norms and stereotypes.
The earthquake has left Nepal in great damage, but we see hope. We are doing our best in supporting our own kids, the local community, and various villages through relief work as well as long-term school reconstruction and business projects. Our endeavors to recover from the disaster has been joined by many donors, local people, and other organizations. We would like to give our sincere thanks to all of our donors who have generously supported all of our work. Your dedicated support is helping us build a new future for Nepal.