Earthquake relief 2015

The April 2015 Nepal earthquake killed more than 8,000 people and injured more than 21,000. It occurred on 25 April, with a magnitude of 7.8. Its epicenter was east of Gorkha District at Barpak, Gorkha.

(Galleries with pictures down the article)

The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing 21, and triggered another huge avalanche in the Langtang valley, where 250 people were reported missing.

Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless with entire villages flattened, across many districts of the country. Centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley. A major aftershock occurred on 12 May 2015.

Himalayan Care Hands Nepal and Holland joined forces and started immediate relief programs in Nuwakot and Ramecchap, area’s that were affected severely.


On May 9 a second convoy of Himalayan Care Hands Nepal left for Nuwakot. The arduous drive through the mountains took about 4 hours. Because of the rain, the dirt roads turned into hazardous mud flows. Still, the team managed to reach the center of the villages by noon where all population were eagerly looking forward to the relief supplies.
The packages were aimed at a “1 month for one family” survival program, containing food, blankets and personal supplies. But our arrival had not gone unnoticed. In addition to the 150 already hard-hit families suddenly 130 more hungry families turned up from the area and stood in line to be helped. A tragic image.
The team immediately started to redistribute the existing packages so that everyone can be helped. But this is not an easy task, because the cry for help and the frustration among the population is high. They are exhausted, sleeping in makeshift tents and are hungry.
Yet the team is able to restore order and try to convince people to follow some basic rules for an orderly process.
At the same time biodata are being collected to map the size of households regarding the exact needs and to achieve a fair distribution of the relief supplies. As we write this update, this process is going on and the team decided to half the packages for now in order to help all.


Boardmembers Wilfried Vander Meeren, Albert Kampermann and later on Luc Reynders went after 3 weeks after the quake with emergency funds of Euro 11.000 (which in the coming weeks would raise to Euro 20.000) to Nepal. Here some of their impressions:

We plan about the temporary mobile housing containing bamboo sticks which roofs of corrugated aluminum sheets attached. Within an isolation of a kind of foam rollers. One such ‘shelter’ for a family with two children can be built within 1-2 days. It also endures easily even for years. We started with the idea and talk to our team in Kathmandu about the plan to help with our emergency funds to help families before the rainy season begins. 

After a few days Himalayan Care Hands joins forces with the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development. This Ministry oversees all affected areas in Nepal and identifies the relief programs and its progress. So they try to prevent “double” help and encourage relief activities at the same time to places where there was yet no help. As in the case of the villages in and around Kathior, near the epicenter of the second quake. It is about 200 km or 5 hours drive southeast of Kathmandu in Ramechhap District in the Janakpur Zone. The poor, mostly illiterate population belong to a lower caste. The Ministry does have a list of names from the village so that aid can be distributed to this group. Together with the Ministry, a local Lions club we are targeting to provide and built for families 60 temporary houses of corrugated sheets.

Today I heard the story of an old woman who has experienced the earthquake 80 years ago. In her completely destroyed village, she found all the inhabitants, sad and sitting on the rubble and staring ahead. “Why are you all just sitting,” she asked them. “It’s meaningless.

Why are you all just sitting?

Everything is destroyed, who knows what still happens” they said. “True,” said the old lady, “when the quake hit us long time ago, we also had to sleep a month on the field, under the stars, sometimes with rain. But we did rebuilt our homes, our schools, our markets and roads. And we can do it again.” It was exactly that these people needed, that experience of that old lady who had been through this before. More than 80 years ago the temples and pagodas also came down in all the durbar squares, and the tower Dahara collapsed also in that time.

Kathjor / Ramecchap, 24 May 2015 – With 25 volunteers from the Nepal Congress Party (from the popular politician Gagan Thapa) and board members of Himalayan Care Hands Nepal and Holland the convoy of truck and bus departed from Kathmandu to Ramechhap, one of the worst areas affected by the earthquakes in Nepal. A journey of over 5 hours to the east of the capital. The road is good to Ramechhap where the destruction of the disaster become clear from the many, collapsed farms. Everywhere we see tents next to the once typical in style built manor houses. Tents made of plastic stretched over bamboo roofs. Roofs of empty rice sacks and construction plastics.

The last 20 km it goes up into the mountains, along on a narrow dirt road. Our bus struggles with the sharp bends along steep precipices that dangerous lurk. The sand rushes in through the windows of the bus. If we look back in the bus we see not even the volunteers sit in the back of the bus.
The road meanders endlessly upward. Here and there an abandoned farm, sometimes a facade or the roof collapsed. In all cases, you know that there is damage as a makeshift tent is deployed next to the house. At 3 p.m. we finally arrive in the schoolyard of Kathajor. It is the only center that represents a kind of nucleus of the community. Here and there, sometimes kilometers apart of eachother there are the destructed farms. The school is the crisis center for the next days. The former mayor is nervously running, gesticulating to the truck. All the stuff we bought and received (rice bags, blankets, food parcels, corrugated aluminum, building materials) are first stored in locked classrooms. The square is increasingly filling with poor inhabitants of this beautiful place. The view is breathtaking, but at the same time it is also a prison for this ‘ caste’ in the Nepalese society. They have no means to leave this place and at the same time not to build a new life. They are ‘low cast’ and hanging down the religious class system. You see the differences. Their faces tanned by the hard life on the land, wrinkled skin which  many times make them look older than their actual age. The children and their parents walk in torn clothes, wear broken shoes. The faces of the children are dirty. They laugh at us, curiously. The old grannies flee when the camera is pointed at them. Out of shame.
There is a plan. A plan that foresees the construction of 60 temporary houses made of corrugated iron sheets on bamboo poles. The names of the worst affected families are known. The sites to built are widely spread in the mountains. We have seven building teams consisting of some of our volunteers, an engineer and residents of the destroyed farm. Together, they have to put in 2 hours time the frame of the temporary shelter. An immense task, because we only have 2 days. We have all the materials bought in Kathmandu; on the free Saturday sought long in the immense capital to open stores that gave us enough stitching materials, thousands of nails, and tens of hammers.
The process goes orderly. The families are selected, land walk grateful to the classroom. The required materials are collected and later we see them and our teams disappear into the forest, packed with long corrugated iron. We follow three of the teams on the ground. Along narrow paths through the rice fields. Up and down the mountains. Children come to see us, welcome us, and point the way to their farm. They want to know what our name is and where we come from. On one of the farms is very big joy. Under a large makeshift sail construction sleep 43 homeless. They have really nothing. They lie side by side here; I just can not imagine that under this sail of rice bags actually so many people have to spend the night.
Holes are drilled into the ground where bamboo poles rise up. It is all measured. We are offered tea. Who has nothing, gives everything.
The farmer talks about his sister who was on top of the famous Dharahara tower when the quake came. She has made the newspaper because she miraculously has been able to hold on to the railing when the tower collapsed. She survived. He survived, and his entire family. He smiles and is so grateful. He gives me a firm handshake. Tonight they have also a new roof over their heads.
An old farmer and his wife posing for their small new shelter. We are an hour later on their spot and their accommodation is ready. They are proud and happy. They feel safe. The walls are sealed with clay, he shows me how he rubs it between the vertically arranged bamboo branches. The floor is also made of clay, is neatly is swept. It makes a clean impression.
The sun sets quickly in the mountains, as if someone presses a switch and turn off the lights. We walk back to school, yet we still hear the sounds of hammering in different places where our teams are still building. It is an art to see how useful the farmers working the bamboo. With a sort of crescent, which serves as a saw. Stone that is used to hammer. Bamboo is twisted to serve as binding wire. They know exactly how Mother Nature has a rich stock, if you’re clever enough to use it properly and to appreciate its meaningfulness.
It is already dark when we reached the school. We sleep in the school’s staff room, between the books and notebooks. The team next door in a large classroom. On the ground, the backpack as a pillow. But first the famous Dal Bhat is cooked in large cauldrons over a wood fire. We sit with thirty men gathered in the smoke from the fire. There is a lot of talking, laughing. Everyone is proud of what we have already achieved. At nine o’clock we are off to our improvised beds. The Nepalese start to sing. One begins, the rest sings along. Lustily. Dozens of songs echoing across the dark Kathajor. There’s a shiver going through me, I am proud of these people. We have done well today.
In the next days more than 60 houses are built, blankets and food distributed.
Also in the months after HCH continued their relief program in Sindhupalchowk District and especially during the first winter after the earthquakes in which the vulnerable people like elderly and young children froze almost to death.