Story of loss, survival and living

HOW PURNIMA IS HELPING EARTHQUAKE SURVIVORS

Her voice trembles and eyes well up as she tries to remember the earthquake of April 2015. “That was the day we lost everything,” says Gita Bhujel, 25, from Dupcheswor, Nuwakot.

Gita was away from home, in Kathmandu, when the massive earthquake struck Nepal. Unable to connect to her family on the phone, she walked for three days from Kathmandu to her home in Nuwakot. “The house was a pile of rubble. It had buried my mother and baby niece. My big sister and her 6-month-old daughter were rescued after six hours but were severely injured. It’s been five years and they are still recovering.”

Such stories of heartbreak and loss can be heard across Purnima’s project areas. Phulmaya Tamang from Khaniyabas, Dhading lost her husband when their house collapsed. As a single mother she now faces enormous financial and social difficulties. She was forced to obtain a loan to rebuild her house and has been trying to repay the debt for years.

DFID’s Purnima Programme has been reaching out and supporting people like Gita and Phulmaya.

Gita’s brother, who became completely blind after the earthquake was getting NRs 600 per month as a disability allowance from the government. Purnima’s implementing partner SAPPROS Nepal helped him to obtain a “red card” that now entitles him to receive NRs 3000 each month. Purnima also provided Gita’s brother with a white cane to increase his mobility.

Gita and her sister-in-law were also trained on tunnel farming, and provided tomatoes seeds and plastic sheets to set up their tunnel. Together, they harvested enough tomatoes in the first season to return a profit of NRs 20,000. “We were able to purchase an insurance for my brother with the profit from the tomatoes. The insurance will cover his health and accident costs, and he can pay the annual premium with his disability allowance,” says Gita.

Similarly, Phulmaya Tamang is also now able to move on with her life and moving closer to repaying her debt. Purnima partner, Dan Church Aid, helped her to set up a small shop (tea, khaja shop) that has helped her earn around NRs 1200 to 1500 per day. The money has helped her to support living costs and continue schooling her two children.

Today Gita also works as a Social Mobilizer for SAPPROS Nepal and finds solace in helping other vulnerable families through Purnima, and is happy for the opportunity. “I find it fulfilling to be able to help people like myself who have suffered loss. It has also helped me become independent and cope with my own loss, and is something that I wouldn’t trade for anything,” says Geeta.