Published: Tuesday, 19 May 2015
For Nepali villagers like 86-year-old Subhadra, the long journey has just begun to rebuild a home, a life, and a community following the devastating earthquakes of the past month.
Subhadra Timilsina grew up in Kumari, a rural village in Nuwakot district, where most people were illiterate and lived below the poverty line. She wanted future generations to have the chance at an education that she never had.
When her husband passed away, Subhadra donated her most valuable asset in his honor - their family's land worth $25,000 – so that a READ Center could be built there.
A proud Subhadra at the inauguration of Kumari READ Center in 2013
The Kumari READ Center opened in August 2013, providing Subhadra’s village with access to critical educational resources and economic opportunities for the first time.
Subhadra says of the land that she donated, "My husband died before he could plant any crops, but this library is like crops for my soul, and for his."
The Center, which has solar panels, provides electricity and the only Internet access in the entire community. An agricultural cooperative run out of the Center provides income for dozens of families while helping to sustain the Center. Kumari village set an impressive goal once the Center opened: to achieve a 100% literacy rate. Last year alone, the Center provided 77 literacy trainings, teaching 1,336 villagers to read – including Subhadra herself. Hundreds of people have received training in agriculture, livelihood skills, and human rights.
On April 25 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Of the 2100 homes in Subhadra’s community, only 9 remained undamaged. Two weeks later, a second quake hit, destroying most of what was left intact.
Left: People help their neighbors with a destroyed home; Right: Inside the library
Although part of the roof and walls have caved in, the Kumari READ Center remains standing. The Center staff and volunteers began providing relief to community members just days after the first earthquake.
Our team in Kathmandu purchased and delivered 130 tents, tarps, and mats as temporary shelter, as well as food and medical supplies for families, including the 25 newborn babies in the village. While the Kumari Center cannot be occupied until repairs are done, its solar panels are now providing the only source of electricity in the village. Using an extension cord, people charge their mobile phones to reach family and friends – a critical life-line in times of crisis. A children’s area has been set up outside the Center so that children can safely continue to learn and engage in activities to help them recover from the trauma of the earthquake.
Left: READ staff distributes tarps and mats in front of the Center; Right: A Children's area with educational toys
Seeing the damage to the Center, Subhadra asked: "Will I see this library standing again before my death?"
Subhadra, like many, is living outdoors because her home has been destroyed. Grain supplies have been wiped out, leaving her and her family at high risk for food insecurity. With the monsoon season arriving in just weeks, it is crucial that relief efforts reach these areas as soon as possible so families like hers can secure housing and begin to rebuild before things get worse.
READ Centers and other local community-based organizations will continue to play a critical role in the long-term disaster relief and rebuilding process.
Owned and operated by local communities, READ Centers will be on the ground for the long rebuilding process in the months and years ahead. Subhadra’s community is home to just one of at least 22 READ Centers that need to be repaired so that they can provide ongoing access to critical information and educational programs on health, agriculture, and livelihoods, to help people put their lives back together.
Although the world’s focus on Nepal has begun to wane, it is more important now than ever that we help the thousands of rural villagers like Subhadra to rebuild their lives and their homes. Please support the people of Nepal by donating to our Nepal Earthquake Fund.