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Like any typical Saturday, Ganga Thapa was cleaning her home when the massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal April 25. As her mud house started to rattle, she hurried outside before parts of it crumbled down. It wasn’t until her neighbors began screaming, "Earthquake! Earthquake!" that she realized what had happened.

Crumbled remains of homes still freckle Nepalese communities.
Crumbled remains of homes still freckle Nepal's landscape. Self-help groups are working together to rebuild.

Immediately after the rattling stopped, she called out for her husband and children who had gone to the public water tap to take a bath. Though her family was safe and quickly reunited, others were not so fortunate.

"My neighbor's mother was buried underneath their house," Ganga said. "All of us worked together to dig her out, but she had already died before we could get to her."

Since the earthquake, Ganga and her family have been living under a temporary shelter. She was able to retrieve some belongings from her damaged house. Now, her husband is back to his duty and her children are going back to school. Ganga feels lucky she did not suffer any serious loss; all her family members are safe and life is getting back to normal.

Help families like Ganga's rebuild their communities.

Ganga shows her gratitude by helping others. Her neighbor, Rekha Khadka lost her entire life's belongings in the disaster. She could not retrieve even a single utensil or cloth from underneath the rubble. Seeing her situation Ganga provided her with a bed, utensils and grains. Rekha's husband is still in shock and is undergoing treatment at a nearby hospital. Under such difficult circumstances, Rekha has found a shoulder to lean on in Ganga. Rekha is paying back her debt by offering to provide shelter for Ganga's goats—her major source of income—in her own goat shed, which luckily was not damaged.  

The women got to know each other through a project Heifer Nepal implemented in their village two years ago. Ganga is a member of an original self-help group (SHG) that supported Heifer in forming pass-on groups by passing on gifts of physical inputs and knowledge from different capacity building trainings. Rekha is a member of the pass-on group that was formed by Ganga's group.

Ganga said, "It was only after we joined Heifer's project that we became so organized and got to know each other. This structure was very helpful in providing support to each other at times of crisis such as this."

Post disaster, Heifer's SHGs have been very active in providing support to its members and others through mobilization of their members and group funds. 

When Ganga and her family moved to the tiny farming village of Bhairamkot seven years ago, she felt like an outsider. "My husband works for the Nepal Army and is always away from home," Ganga said. "I used to feel scared and lonely because I didn't know anyone here and had my two young ones to care for."

But today, Ganga is a notable person in her community. She feels at ease and trusts the community, even with her husband off to duty and her two little children at home. She is grateful to Heifer for uniting the community members and strengthening their social capital.

Story and Photos by Alina Karki, Communication and Networking Officer, Heifer Nepal 

Author

Alina Karki

Alina Karki serves as Communication and Networking Officer for Heifer Nepal. She joined Heifer as an intern in 2012 and worked briefly with the Planning, Monitoring and Evaluations team before joining the Communications department. With Heifer she tells inspiring stories of everyday heroes.