THE BLOG

Rebuilding Hope in Nepal After the Earthquake

24/07/2015 17:54 BST | Updated 24/07/2016 10:59 BST

I met 16-year-old Rumee as she was collecting 15,000 rupees (about £100) from a Red Cross cash transfer centre in one of the worst hit districts of Nepal.

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Rumee wants to play her part in rebuilding Nepal (c) DEC

A teenage girl in Nepal even before the quake had a lot stacked against her. Many girls drop out of school early, and 41% of them are married before their 18th birthday - 10% are married before they turn 15.

Girls are at greater risk of marrying early or leaving school following the devastating quake that destroyed lives and homes on 25 April. Families who have lost everything may be forced to take extreme measures to increase the household income, asking their daughters to work or marry. With families separated, girls are also at an increased risk of trafficking.

Yet Rumee rose above the risks she faces and defied the struggle of her damaged home. She was eager to tell me about her career ambitions:

"I want to be a civil engineer. It will take me 10 years to qualify. I can help rebuild Nepal to be great again."

The £100 she received from DEC's member agency, the Red Cross, would be an important step toward her construction aspirations, enabling her and her father to repair their partially damaged home.

An estimated 2.4million people had their homes destroyed by the earthquakes. DEC agencies have moved fast to provide emergency shelter to protect people from the treacherous monsoon rains and provided materials or cash to help families start rebuilding their own homes. Cash is often the best way to help when materials are available locally, enabling people to buy exactly what they need whilst also supporting local businesses.

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Children in Kathmandu make their way to school despite the devastation (c) DEC

I met equally brave and inspiring children at a DEC-funded child friendly space run by Plan UK. These amazing places run by warm-hearted and caring workers help children overcome the trauma of the earthquake. The simple structure staffed by experienced protection experts not only provides a safe haven from the chaos that comes in the aftermath of a disaster but it provides routine and normality - bringing back smiles of childhood.

During my week in Nepal I meet hundreds of children as they were having fun and learning together. I was there to see first-hand how DEC funds are reaching remote communities and helping people start the long hard journey of recovery.

I have been left saddened by the scale of destruction and the impact the damage has had on children in particular, but also pleased to see the good progress the aid effort is making only three months on from the earthquake.

DEC member agencies are working around the clock despite the enormous challenges such as impassable roads, mudslides, poor infrastructure and such remote villages and districts that they were only accessible by foot. Even during the best of times such areas would take hours and days to get to by car and foot, but with the monsoon rains, a 30km journey is taking four hours off-road and by foot.

In the first three months of the response DEC members have reached more than 2.2 million people with aid and support. For example I saw how Red Cross, Save the Children, Christian Aid, Plan, Tearfund and Oxfam have provided shelter kits and water and helped set up temporary schools. All have been delivered quickly and effectively often in partnership with local community organisations and always with the people that we all serve.

People like Bhuwol worked in Dubai for five years to save money to build his dream home for his young family in Nepal - but it was completely destroyed on 25 April. Over the past three months, DEC funds have enabled him to build a new temporary home.

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Bhuwol lost his dream home in the Earthquake (c) DEC

I met some really remarkable and dedicated aid workers who despite enduring terrible conditions themselves were still able to provide commitment and essential aid to so many. People like Sean Reynolds, who came to Nepal on holiday a week before the earthquake and then decided that he needed to stay and help. Sean joined Christian Aid and has been helping coordinate the effort to provide assistance to many cut off and remote villages in the district.

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Sean Reynolds of Christian Aid

The UK public has donated an incredible £83million and the children of Woodlands Primary in Angus, Scotland, made a book of mandalas for children in Nepal.

Mandalas or "circles" are a common symbol in Nepalese culture, representing many things including the fragility of life. British artists, members of the public and children have created circles in response to the devastation - these small pieces of art express a profound hope that connects us all.

I am privileged to have been able to go to Nepal and sit with young people like Rumee and to understand that she is not afraid any more. She and most others are just determined to fix things. All they need is help along the way. Everyone in the UK who has donated to the DEC Nepal Earthquake Appeal, put on a fundraising event or created a Mandala is also part of the formidable reconstruction efforts already underway.

The "book of hope" as the Woodlands Primary children called their collection of circles will play its part, reminding children to have big dreams and overcome the challenges ahead.

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90-year-old Chandra Shova Aacharge (c) DEC

Every person I met was grateful for the compassion and help they had received - there were so many who wanted me to pass on personal thanks, but I think that they won't mind me mentioning one particular woman: Chandra Shova Aacharge - the oldest lady in Lakvi village at a sprightly 90 years of age. She welcomed us in to her village and said:

"I want to thank everyone for helping rebuild our homes and lives - Namaste."

Find out more about the DEC Nepal Earthquake Appeal