Disaster relief charity ShelterBox has now used a range of its aid in its Nepal earthquake response – ShelterBox tents as medical facilities, Shelter Kits to get aid swiftly to mountain villages, and now SchoolBoxes to bring some sense of recovery and normality to children in Kathmandu.
The Nepal earthquakes affected vast areas of urban, valley and mountain terrain, presenting unique challenges to aid workers. From the city of Kathmandu to high altitude villages perched on narrow terraces, ShelterBox and its partners have had to use ingenious solutions – a variety of aid, and every form of transport from helicopters to trucks to trekking by foot.
In the early days after the first quake ShelterBox tents were used as medical facilities outside damaged city hospitals, or as field hospitals in the foothills. Then a steady flow of Shelter Kits – containing tools and waterproof tarpaulins – were the ideal choice for helping remote mountain communities to start rebuilding their homes. Over 15,000 people have received ShelterBox aid so far, much of it delivered in partnership with other international organisations, Rotary and the Royal Gurkha Rifles.
Now, an initiative by a local Rotary Club has focused on children in need. The Rotary Club of Bhadgaon is less than a year old, but has taken on the massive project of supporting over 200 orphanages across the Kathmandu Valley – a task which the earthquakes made even more urgent.
Bhadgaon (also known as Bhaktapur or Khwopa) is a city in the Kathmandu Valley with some of the finest temples and religious architecture in Nepal, though much of it has now been damaged or destroyed.
A response team from ShelterBox – Tim Osburn from the US, Jimmy Griffith from New Zealand, Torstein Nielsen from Norway and Jessica Kim from Canada – helped to source and deliver SchoolBoxes containing enough school materials for up to 450 children. Each orphanage looks after between 25 and 50 children – some are admitted when only a few days old, and they may remain until the age of 18. The Rotarians have also brought in psychiatrists to help children traumatised by the quakes and ongoing aftershocks.
Torstein says, ‘It was wonderful to see how the older children were taking care of the younger children. It was evident that the staff fostered a healthy, inviting family environment.’
His colleague Jimmy Griffith added, ‘It was great to see our SchoolBoxes in action and to peek in on how the children are enjoying a little bit of a distraction from their very difficult experiences.’
In another initiative a ShelterBox tent has provided an adaptable space for a local children’s art therapy organisation in Balaju Park in Kathmandu. This has created a fun, friendly environment where children can overcome the trauma of the earthquakes. It provides them with a place to play, sing, dance and draw, where they can receive one-on-one therapy too. It will also be used to train counsellors and volunteers committed to helping children overcome their experiences.
ShelterBox CEO Alison Wallace says, ‘It is no surprise that a widespread disaster like this has required many different responses, and the use of different types of aid. We have been fortunate to team up with excellent partner charities, with Rotarians and the military to reach as many people as possible. And it is good to see the needs of these children being part of that mix.’
‘Now, with the monsoon creating very wet conditions for the next few months, we are sourcing more tarpaulins to help as many people as possible to rebuild or to shelter. Flexibility and resourcefulness are needed in such testing circumstances, and I am proud to say ShelterBox is dedicated to doing all it can to continue helping the people of Nepal.’
Eva Doerr is now leading the ShelterBox team in Nepal. Eva says,‘Despite logistical challenges the team in Nepal is continuing to make a relentless effort in providing those families affected by the earthquake with shelter and recovery material. With the monsoon season just around the corner, we can expect another emergency and even more need.’