Two years ago, to be precise on April 25th 2015, an earthquake struck the mountainous regions between the Mount Everest and Kathmandu, Nepal. The major convulsion, measuring 7,9 on the Richter scale, as well as several aftershocks, buried thousands of people and devastated the infrastructure in the Eastern and Southeastern districts bordering Kathmandu.
The region where the Wiesbaden-based organization Kinder-von-Bhandar – now a part of Childaid Network – was active for over 30 years already, is heavily affected. Buildings and streets were destroyed and local residents found shelter only under plastic sheeting and in makeshift accommodations – for months. Farmers were not able to sow, and in turn the harvest in autumn was scarce. It was impossible or forbidden to use the remaining school buildings for classes; too great was the fear of another aftershock. The earthquake destroyed towns and traumatized its inhabitants.
Now, two years later, we want to use the remembrance of the events to report what has happened in the meantime. Together with the local network of our partner organization FRADS, Childaid Network was able to send emergency equipment into the mountainous areas only days after the earthquake. About 500 families in Bhandar were supported with plastic sheets, medicine and blankets – delivered with the help of jeeps and tractors, but also on donkey backs or even by feet. Governmental aid arrived only weeks later. Many people showed their gratitude for the quick support, as the president of our local partner organization recalls: “This was a happily welcomed sign of German solidarity.”
A couple of weeks later, already in June 2015, a professional team of ours made a trip to the area to document and analyze the damages and work on a plan for further action. The group of local architects, civil engineers, a photographer and the team leader was able to reach all schools between 2.000 and 4.000 meters in altitude – a sometimes rather adventurous journey. Dr. Klaus Klennert, part of the team as voluntary senior advisor, recounted: “A lot of paths were no longer recognizable, our clothes were drenched and we were plagued by leeches. But the local people appreciated our initiative and helped us to secure the success of the trip, despite the inclement weather.” The team returned home with good news: Many of the schools could be renovated without too much effort and only about half of them had to be completely rebuilt.
The Childaid Network team worked hard on drafts and plans, collected donations and applied for public as well as private subsidies – the solidarity was enormous. In the Rhein-Main area the student-led campaign “Your Brick for Nepal” spread out increasingly and the high school students were able to collect more than 100.000€. Everything seemed ready for a quick rebuilding – but then the next disaster hit Nepal.
Ever since the overthrow of Nepal’s monarchy in 2007, there was no constitution in place; the different existing parties kept on boycotting each other. Now, after the earthquake, they finally came to terms with one another and established a new constitution in summer. Seemingly, this was a positive development. However, different minorities felt disregarded and successively, a civil war broke out. Hundreds of people died, and some Southern Nepalese minorities, with support from India, started blocking the borders. Desperately needed goods like food, diesel, fuel or building materials did no longer come through – public life as a whole came to a standstill. Reconstruction efforts almost stopped and also the tourism sector, which was slowly recovering again, was weakened tremendously. The situation became even more precarious.
“I travelled to Nepal in the beginning of December in order to negotiate the reconstruction of schools and initiate a concrete plan for what comes next – I witnessed a paralyzed country,” Dr. Martin Kasper recounts. “Miles upon miles of queues in front of the gas stations bore witness to the effects of the blocked borders.” The Nepalese government was entirely unable to cope with the consequences of the earthquake. 4 billion dollar of international aid funds could not be used because of the ineffective Nepalese administration. Merely private initiatives were able to help reconstructing buildings and casting hope amongst the disappointed Nepalese population.
In this context the Childaid Network team still tried to move forward. Despite overpriced construction material, it was decided to undo the damage of the Kinderhouse immediately. That way, the children would have access to a safe and comfortable accommodation again. In all locations of our schools we ensured that emergency substitute schools would be available. Local partners started preparing and planning reparation projects. Together with local administration it was also determined which schools had to be rebuilt entirely.
Martin Frenz, teacher at Helene-Lange-School in Wiesbaden, arrived in Nepal around Easter in 2016, together with a small group of visitors. Reviewing the progress that had been made, he was however rather disappointed. “There are a lot of dedicated people here, but the place lacks so many other things: qualification, administrative support and workforce.” The restauration of the Kinderhouse however is progressing and the local team was confident about their next steps.
“We will receive 500.000€ from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in order to rebuild our schools – this quadruples our means,” says Dr. Martin Kasper. “But it is hard work to establish appropriate conditions locally. The Nepali Construction Agency is now established – but not at work yet. We need their approval however, before we can start. And our own team, too, reaches its limits at times.
“We won’t forsake the children in Bhandar,” stresses Dr. Ute Nieschalk, board member of both the Kinder-von-Bhandar organization in Wiesbaden and Childaid Network. “We are working hard to strengthen our teams and find new local partners. We are confident to make headway now, finally.”
Currently, support is needed primarily within the projects. If you want to help and sustain teachers, children in the orphanages or health projects, please consider Childaid Network. You can do so via our webpage www.childaid.net or directly onto our account at Commerzbank, IBAN: DE96 5004 0000 0375 5055 00, BIC: COBADEFFXXX, keyword „Kinder-von-Bhandar“.