By Niki Clark, IFRC
From initial appearances, it seems like you may have stumbled on some idyllic version of summer camp. The sounds of young voices, unified in song, waft out of tents into the crisp mountain air. But this is Nepal, less than two months after two devastating earthquakes. And these people aren’t telling ghost stories around the campfire, they are learning critical skills from the Red Cross about surviving in a post-disaster world.
Seventy Nepalese Scouts representing the 14 most affected districts gathered in Nuwakot, a few hours outside of Kathmandu, as part of a UK Aid Funded, Inter-Agency Common Feedback Project training event. Over five days, they receive training from humanitarian agencies, including the Nepal Red Cross Society, which they can take back to their communities and teach others.
The Red Cross is teaching emergency shelter building. For some, the lessons learned are a necessity; they have lost everything in the earthquake and are living with their families in tents. The training will show them how to create more a durable shelter from local materials and rubble, of which there is plenty.
Many people received tarpaulins from the Red Cross along with other relief items including construction tools, nails and rope in the days following the earthquake. But with monsoon season approaching, the Red Cross is also distributing shelter tool kits, which allow families to fortify current shelters so they can withstand strong wind and rains for up to six months.
Manish Raj Timsina is a technical supervisor for the Nepal Red Cross Society and is teaching the segment on strengthening tarps with bamboo and timber. His partners, Mohammad Shahjahan Saju of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and Moosa Shifaz of the Maldives Red Crescent, are both members of the Regional Disaster Response Teams for Shelter. In both blue skies and grey, they deploy to help support and train partner National Societies, bolstering their ability to reach people in critical need. Saju is teaching the segment on bracing and fixing joints and Moosa is leading the segment on sewing tarps.
Manish said the 25 April earthquake still haunts him. “It was terrible, absolutely terrible. I still have visions of dead bodies in my head,” he said.
For the first three hours after the quake, he felt helpless, paralyzed. Then, he was overcome with an incredible sense of duty. “I realized I have to help. So I did. I walked four hours to Bhaktapur, one of the most affected areas. Roads were blocked, security forces were everywhere and I was still scared but I felt like I had a power. Because I am Red Cross.”
It is this sense of self-reliance and duty he is now empowering his audience to take on, including Manisha Singh, 21. Manisha had taken Red Cross training before the earthquake and is grateful to be able to help others in such a tangible way. “When I return home, I can teach my neighbours and peers how to make their shelters stronger. It’s a good thing for everyone to learn,” she said.
To date, the Nepal Red Cross Society has distributed nearly 64,000 tarpaulins, more than 2,600 family tents and 1,000 shelter kits. Shelter, however, still remains a critical – and under-funded – priority, with hundreds of thousands of people still without shelter. Without immediate action, the situation in Nepal will worsen and thousands will face the monsoon season without adequate shelter.
To support vital Red Cross disaster response work, and help prevent worsening conditions in Nepal, go to http://www.ifrc.org/nepal-earthquake.