© Helvetas

Rising from Adversity: Helvetas Nepal's Restoration Story in Melamchi and Helmbu, Sindhupalchowk

BY: Shraddha Karmacharya - 12. May 2024
© Helvetas

In the challenging landscape of Sindhupalchok district, the Helambu Rural Municipality and Melamchi Municipality are home to a vibrant mix of Brahmins, Chhetris, Tamangs, Newar and Sherpas, who live in communities scattered across steep hills and deep valleys. This area, characterized by its challenging topography and diverse climate, has faced significant hardship due to natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and landslides. The aftermath of such events often leaves the local settlement, predominantly dry-stone masonry houses reinforced with timber, vulnerable to damage. Recognizing the urgent need for sustainable living conditions and to address the vulnerable structure, Helvetas launched the AfnoGhar project. This initiative aims to restore 649 stone masonry houses (constructed during REAP project, 2015-2019) , benefiting over 3,580 residents by strengthening their homes against potential future earthquakes and educating them on maintenance practices. The project emerged from a detailed assessment conducted in June 2022 of damages incurred over time, primarily due to the use of local softwood and exposure to moisture and insects, which had led to significant structural vulnerabilities. With restoration efforts set to ramp up in early 2024, AfnoGhar stands as evidence to the resilience and proactive spirit of this vulnerable communities, ensuring safer, enduring homes for its inhabitants.

A Sound Sleep at Last: Manmaya Tamang's Journey to a Stable Home with Helvetas Nepal's Restoration

In the serene setting of Melamchi, Ward-6,  Majtol, the Tamang family is witnessing a transformation not just of their home but of their lives. Manmaya Tamang and Min Bahadur Tamang, along with their family, are at the heart of a story that demonstrates resilience and the impact of targeted aid on rural families facing infrastructural and basic livelihood challenges.

The physical condition of their home due to poor state of timber bands and posts resulting to a vulnerable structure was a continuous source of anxiety for Manmaya, who found the stress particularly overwhelming at night, impacting her ability to sleep and function effectively during the day. The upcoming rainy season added urgency to their situation, with the threat of leaks and further damage looming large.

The decision to restore their home came as a significant relief. As the walls of their new dwelling rose, so did their spirits. The family temporarily relocated to a small hut adjacent to their construction site, enabling the builders to proceed without hindrance while providing the family an advantage to oversee the progress.

© Helvetas
Manmaya Tamang, Melamchi, Ward-6,  Majtol © Helvetas

The Tamang family, comprised of five members, faced daily struggles due to the deteriorating condition of their home. Issues like mice problem not only caused stress but also posed health risks and damaged their belongings, contributing to an unstable living environment.

With the restoration underway, Manmaya expressed a profound sense of relief and newfound peace, highlighting the psychological comfort that a safe and secure home can provide. The anticipation of a sturdy, well-constructed house has brought them not only joy but a sense of security and stability, essential for sound sleep and overall well-being.

Restoration as Recovery: Ringen's Home Stabilized Like 'Putting a Rod in a Broken Leg'

Chiri Laprang, Helambu, Ward-1, the Tamang family, led by Ringen Dhindup Tamang, stands as a beam of resilience and communal strength. Their recent experience with Helvetas Nepal illustrates a journey of restoration and renewed hope, encapsulated by a simple yet profound analogy: "It's like putting a steel-rod in a broken leg to stabilize it."

Ringen Dhindup and his family of five faced the daunting prospect of strengthening  their home, which, while not severely damaged, required significant repairs to ensure safety and comfort. The family's initial apprehension stemmed from the lack of an alternative living arrangement during the restoration.

The thought of starting extensive restoration work without a temporary residence was a significant concern for Ringen Dhindup and his family. This uncertainty brought a sense of vulnerability, overshadowing their need for a safer living environment.

Despite these challenges, the family’s determination, coupled with the support from Helvetas Nepal, move them forward. The relatively moderate extent of damage allowed them the unique opportunity to undertake restoration while still inhabiting their home. This decision marked a pivotal moment, reducing the logistical strain and enabling them to see their vulnerable house gaining strength provides a greater sense of relief.

The restoration brought not just physical reinforcement to their dwelling but also emotional and psychological relief to the family. Ringen Dhindup’s expression of relief and gratitude highlights the profound impact of the support received, equating the stability of their strengthened home to the essential support.

© Helvetas
© Helvetas

Rebuilding Hope: Saili and Hari Bahadur's Resilient Journey with Helvetas

In the village of Melamchi, ward 6, Upalla Gaun, Sairi Tamang and Hari Bahadur Tamang have shown incredible strength and community spirit. Their journey through tough times and their partnership with Helvetas’ projects demonstrate how rural areas can develop sustainably with the right support.

Saili and Hari Bahadur used to live with their three sons, but now it's just the two of them. Their sons left the village for school and work. When the 2015 earthquake hit, their home was destroyed, and they felt very unsafe. Helvetas helped them by building a strong new house with three rooms made of stone and timber band to protect them from future disasters.

But even after the new house was built, they faced problems. The soft wood used in their new home started to wear out, and they were hesitant to fix it. It seemed like too much work to move everything out of their house and endure construction again, especially without help from family.

Seeing other houses in the village fixed up by Helvetas gave them hope. So, they decided to bear the inconvenience of fixing their home. They moved into a small hut nearby while their main house was being repaired.

The repairs didn't just make their house stronger; they also got rid of problems like rats that were eating their food and making things dirty. Now, their home is a safe and comfortable place to live. Helvetas’ staff and local partners regularly checked on them, which made them feel supported and grateful.

© Helvetas
«The homes constructed following the 2015 earthquake suffered damage attributed to the use of locally available wood. Nevertheless, we express gratitude towards Helvetas for accepting their responsibility to restore them using hardwood and innovative techniques, even after several years.»

Dawa Gyalzen Lama, Ward-Chair, Helambu -1

A Season of Renewal: Kanchi Sherpa's Story of Resilience in Helambu

Helambu, Ward-1, Kanchi Sherpa, an 80-year-old local, embodies the spirit of endurance and gratitude. Her story highlights the transformative impact of community support for the elderly living alone, providing a heartfelt example of how sustained assistance can uplift lives.

Kanchi Sherpa, despite her age and the challenges of living alone, has found solace and security in her recently restored home. With her daughter and son-in-law living nearby, she is not without familial support, yet her daily struggles encompass more than just companionship.

Living alone at 80 is no small feat. Kanchi's primary concern had been the safety and stability of her aging home, which, before restoration, posed a constant worry, disturbing her peace and affecting her sleep. Although her immediate needs for food are met by the agricultural efforts of her family, who cultivate fruits, vegetables, and grains locally, financial insecurities linger, overshadowing her otherwise contented life.

© Helvetas
© Helvetas

The visit by Helvetas Nepal’s team marked a significant turning point for Kanchi. Overwhelmed with happiness upon their arrival, she expressed profound relief and gratitude, feeling reassured by the physical and moral support the organization has continued to provide. This interaction underscores the importance of not just meeting the basic needs but also providing emotional and social support to the elderly.

The restoration of her home has allowed Kanchi to sleep without worry, providing her with a safe and stable environment. However, her request for financial assistance to cover non-food-related expenses highlights an often-overlooked aspect of supporting elderly individuals living alone-ensuring they have the means to manage their overall well-being.

«Earthquakes don't directly cause casualties, instead, it's the collapse of weakly constructed and poorly maintained buildings and infrastructure that leads to loss of life and property damage. Thus, constructing resilient, earthquake-resistant buildings and structures is crucial to minimize the impact of earthquakes on communities. Additionally, strict adherence to building codes, proper construction techniques, and the use of quality materials, along with consistent maintenance by homeowners, are essential for reducing earthquake risks. Helvetas Nepal is proud to be part of this retrofitting effort working closely with the Local Governments and the communities, supported by Swiss Solidarity.»

Dr. Prabin Manandhar, Country Director of Helvetas Nepal

Shraddha Karmacharya