Today marks one year since the people of Nepal suffered the catastrophic death and destruction caused by the first of two massive earthquakes.
Thankfully, because ActionAid has been working in Nepal for over 30 years, we were able to respond to the situation straight away through our networks on the ground and get life-saving help to the most vulnerable people. Thanks to the generosity of the UK public in giving to ActionAid's emergency appeal, our colleagues in Nepal have been able to continue this support. One year on, they have shared with us many encouraging stories and images of how supporters' money has helped, as well as some of the challenges people are still facing.
Putting women at the centre of our work
Since the earthquakes, ActionAid has set up 16 permanent women-friendly spaces. These spaces act as a safe place for women to meet, learn and share ideas and discuss issues that are important to them, such as gender-based violence, and the changes they want to see in their community.
After talking with women about what they needed in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, ActionAid distributed over 7,000 dignity kits to women, containing essential items like underwear, soap and sanitary pads. Vulnerable women were also given solar lamps and central solar charging stations.
By offering women a safe place to have discussions and enabling them to become leaders, we make sure that women are at the heart of rebuilding their communities. This means their needs will be met by the new plans for their villages, and that they develop skills and confidence to take a more active role in society going forward, and gain their due respect.
Putting a roof over people's heads
The earthquakes destroyed over 600,000 homes. Maiya, pictured below, lost her home and all of her livestock in the earthquake of 25th April, 2015. She and her family slept outside for 15-16 days after the quake struck.
The same happened to Kanchhi Maya, pictured below. Luckily, she and her family members survived but her cattle did not. Kanchhi's family were left with no way of earning an income, and had to live under a basic tarpaulin for many months.
ActionAid provided Maiya and Kanchhi with the tools and training to build their own temporary shelter and gave Maiya goats and Kanchhi an ox so they could both earn their own money. Kanchhi said:
It was dreadful after the earthquake, we didn't even have a place to sleep. Luckily ActionAid helped us rebuild our lives. I don't know what we would have done.
Since the earthquakes, ActionAid has given food support to 18,500 families, and emergency shelter to 7,000 families.
Rebuilding permanent homes
Though temporary shelters have been vital, they are not a permanent solution. But rebuilding permanent homes is a complex task, and involves clearing tons and tons of debris first.
Sadly, bureaucracy and a long trade embargo has meant that the Nepalese government has not yet fulfilled its promise to give people 200,000 rupees (approximately £1,300) each to rebuild permanent homes. This means that, a year later, most of the people made homeless by the earthquakes are still living in temporary shelters.
As you can see from this photo taken in rural Sindhupalchowk, there is still a long way to go before Nepalese streets are safe and habitable once again.
Keeping education going for kids
Because so many schools were damaged or destroyed by the earthquakes, as well as homes, ActionAid has helped to build over 50 temporary learning centres for kids to study.
This smiley girl is one of many children who have received a warm jacket from ActionAid, which we've been handing out to the kids at our centres.
We've also given out 9,580 education kits to school children, including things like books, bags, pens and PE kits.
Getting women back into business
Businesses were of course badly affected by the earthquakes too. On top of Parvati's home being badly damaged by the earthquake of 25th April, the shop and cafe which she used to run was destroyed as well.
We gave Parvati the materials and help she needed to construct her shop again, and immediate food and non-food items such as rice, oil and blankets to get her through the first few weeks after the quakes.
A year later Parvati is earning good money and says that her business is doing well. With the support ActionAid provided, Parvati was able to also buy new tables and chairs for customers to use.
Until now, people seem to think my shop is really good and they come regularly. I don’t know what will happen later, but until now this shop has supported me. People really like the tea in my shop so a lot of people come to drink tea here.
ActionAid is also helping women who've lost their previous source of income start businesses together. For instance, we've helped Laxmi and nine other women in her village set up a community mushroom farm.
"We are earning very good money from this mushroom farming," Laxmi says. "After investing in this tunnel and doing various different things, we have already earned 70,000 rupees [approximately £450]." She also explains how the farm is giving women more independence, since though all the women are used to working hard, for some of them this is the first time they have earnd their own money.
Laxmi is very excited by this: "If we help more women do business, women’s status will get uplifted."
Read more about how we've been helping women earn a living since the eathquakes.
Not just rebuilding, but rebuilding stronger
Despite the immense destruction, Nepal remains a beautiful country full of breathtaking landscapes, vibrant colours and a positive people determined to overcome the devastation that they have suffered.
There are still many challenges ahead: the Nepalese government urgently needs to release funding to provide homes, and with the monsoon season fast approaching in June, urgent provisions are needed for the thousands of people still living in temporary shelters, such as blankets, tents and tarpaulins.
But ActionAid is not going anywhere. We will continue to support Nepal - not just to rebuild, but to rebuild stronger - both in the sense of buildings that are more resilient to earthquakes, and in the sense of women gaining the confidence to earn their own money, become leaders of their communities and take control of the future of their lives, their villages, and their Nepal.
As always, we'd like to thank everyone who makes this support possible including the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), the Alborada Trust and many individual supporters.
Photo credits: Bisesh Sangat/ActionAid and Jo Harrison/ActionAid