The earthquakes may be over, but along with the aftershocks, the effects of the earthquakes remain...
Imagine thousands of children between the ages of 4 and 17 who have lost their families, trying to find a safe place where they are not subject to the tempting offers of traffickers or the horrors of abuse. This is the situation in Nepal, and at Ama Ghar, we are working with anti-trafficking groups to help them find a safe haven - some of them in our home.
Thank you again for your generosity in supporting our earthquake relief fund. Your gifts helped us to provide shelter, solar power, medical supplies, hygiene supplies and child safe spaces to our neighbors and others in remote areas who had lost their homes in the earthquake. The next step for us is to help children displaced by the earthquake to find a loving home, nutrition, medical care and an education. If you'd like to help, please go to our new Displaced Children's Fund on Global Giving. Your kindness will give these children hope for a real future in the new Nepal that is rising from the rubble.
We have taken in eight new children at Ama Ghar since the earthquake; most of them were frightened and traumatized when they arrived, but our staff and children are doing everything they can to make them feel loved and welcome. Slowly, the tears are turning to smiles. Here are their stories:
Ram, age 12
Laxman, age 9
Laxman, who is Ram’s younger brother, has started to show that he is getting settled in and engaging more with the other children. He seems to like school and is doing well, but what he really likes is playing caroms with his new Ama Ghar brothers and sisters.
Anjana, age 8
Anjana spent only two days at Ama Ghar before she began asking to go to school – she was ready right away, while others take more time to adjust. Anjana is quiet and doesn’t smile, as she lost her bottom front permanent teeth in an accident of some kind. She needs time to develop trust, but she is tentatively getting to know her new brothers and sisters.
Nirjala, age 6
Nirjala just arrived last week, and she hasn’t get go of the stuffed puppy she received on the first day. She is very, very thin and has a lot of infections on her skin. She has been seen by our wonderful Dr. Neelam Adhikari and she will heal quickly. She is very timid but is starting to explore.
Alisha, age 5
Alisha just arrived but is already sleeping well. She got a pink stuffed bear when she arrived, but it hasn’t held her interest. Her continued request is for “chewing gum” and “cheese balls”, both taboo items at Ama Ghar, poor little thing. She is quite talkative and likes to be with our house father, Bhesh.
Ramit, age 5
Another recent arrival, Ramit seems to be happy to get his uniform on and march off to school with the others. It did take him a few days to smile but he has been a busy boy with Lego and crayons. He seems to like vegetables which sets him apart from others!
Badi Ram, age 3
Badi Ram is a happy, smiling, very active little boy. He has become used to the older girls taking turns holding him, and he is quite the kisser – just show him your cheek and you get a kiss. He has started nursery school, and it will be a challenge for his teachers to manage his energy.
Jeevan, age 5
Jeevan is an active boy and loves the attention he gets from his new older sisters. On the surface he seems to be adjusting well. He still has trouble at night with bedwetting and being afraid of the dark. He is anxious to get ready for school and is a good eater.
Aftershocks are finally dying down - nothing over 4.0 these days, and they're fewer and farther between. But life will never be the same for those of us who lived through the experiences of the weeks since the earthquake.
At Ama Ghar, we are continuing our work to provide relief to those hardest hit in our area. Little by little, thanks to generous donors like you, we have been able to supply tarps, zinc panels and other building materials to our area so that families with children can build temporary homes to shelter them during the monsoon. It will be months and probably years before the lives of those who lost their homes have any semblance of normality, but Nepalis are strong, resilient and positivie people and are, as always, finding joy in the most difficult of circumstances.
The bright spots for us are many...
- We have seen firsthand how resourceful and compassionate our young people can be. At Ama Ghar, our alumni (ages 19-24) have come back to work with the older children still in the house to provide safe places for displaced children, improvise motorcycle delivery for building materials, photograph medicine labels with their phones so we would replace with the proper prescription, cut tarps and form assessment teams to ensure that materials got to those who needed them most. To date they have served over 800 families.
- Our pride in Ama Ghar youth extends to the youth of Nepal in general. Many youth groups didn't wait for international or government aid, but went right to work in their neighborhoods to help in any way they could. They continue to help in outlying areas that are at risk from landslides. We have faith in Nepal's future, thanks to our talented and committed youth.
- We have welcomed three new brothers to our family! Ram, age 12; his brother Laxman, age 9; and our youngest boy Jeevan, age 4. We are so thrilled to have these bright, sweet boys in our home and are spending lots of time helping them to become party of the Ama Ghar family.
This will be the last project report from the Community Earthquake Fund Project, as we are fully funded for relief. But we are opening a new project, the Ama Ghar Displaced Children Fund, which will help us to support the arrival of many new children who have been displaced by the earthquake - we didn't budget for the arrival of these additional children, so new funding is needed. If you are making a recurring donation, your gifts will be rolled over from the Community Earthquake Fund into the Displaced Children Fund.
We can only thank you again and again for your help during this terrible time. Thanks to you, our children have hope that they - and their country - will see a bright future.
One of the most difficult things about living after two giant earthquakes - the one on April 25 and the 7.3 "aftershock" that occurred 17 days later - is the constant anxiety. Aftershocks of 5.0 and greater are still occurring at the rate of about four a day, and every time the earth shakes it's a reminder of how tenuous life really is here in Nepal.
It's especially difficult for children, who have been traumatized and don't really understand why their world has been shaken apart.Their parents worry constantly about how to keep the children safe and engaged in productive play or study. A team of the older Ama Ghar girls, led by Pratima Bista, who is studying for her Bachelor's in Social Work, have worked with our Country Director to create a "Child Safe Space" where parents can bring their children to enjoy play, study and a snack in a tent they put up in the open space near our ruined school. Pratima reported that "at first they were crying and scared to come with us, but now they are laughing and playing together every day. Their parents are so grateful and happy."
We are also working with other NGO's to create Child Safe Spaces in the tent camps where displaced children can come to live and be safe until their families can be located. Thanks to your generous gifts, Ama Ghar has just funded an entire kitchen setup, from appliances to pans to food, for one of these safe places.
The other priority right now is to ensure shelter for every family before the monsoon rains. We have received a large truckload of tarps from USAID and are currently distributing them to about 380 families. In addition, we are sourcing and purchasing zinc plates that can be used to create a more secure temporary shelter until people can rebuild their homes.
We have been so inspired by the outpouring of compassion and generosity we have felt from our donors. From school children who have created their own fundraisers to a gentleman who made a donation to Ama Foundation on the day he died, the stories are so moving. Thank you for remembering us even after the media attention is gone - your contributions are making a huge difference in people's lives.
Imagine that you are a young woman who has spent months planning the perfect wedding to a young man she loves... only to have your life literally crumble, along with 40% of your country, in a devastating natural disaster. That was the situation for Bindu, the first of our Ama Ghar alumnae to marry.
Bindu and her groom, Prem, had planned their wedding ceremony for May 7 - and even after the earthquake, they decided to move forward with the ceremony. Bindu, who is a nurse, wanted her Ama Ghar sister Sarada (a doctor who had introduced the couple) and her brother Akshay, also an Ama Ghar alum, to play important roles in the ceremony. Ama Ghar house fathers Bhesh and Tan Bahadur, house mother Dhana and Bonnie Auntie all attended as well, affording us all a moment of great joy in the midst of unrelenting suffering and despair.
Of course, the Ama Ghar Community Relief efforts have not stopped from Day One. The older children took over relief efforts during the wedding, organizing and deploying groups to continue to bring much-needed food, supplies, tents and tarps to the neighboring villages.
Here's what your generous donations to the Community Relief Fund have allowed us to do so far:
- Complete an assessment of the needs of families in our immediate area, with a focus on those with young children or elderly household members.
- Deliver bags of rice and dal to our immediate neighbors, as well as to the remote hills above Ama Ghar
- Re-stock our local Health Post completely - after the first two days, they had been depleted of every type of medicine and supplies
- Provide tarps and temporary shelter to people who had been living outdoors in the rain. This effort is ongoing, but we have given out over 100 tarps and our boys and staff are helping families to construct the shelters
- Take hygiene supplies like soap and menstrual pads to over 50 families within a two hour radius who had no access
- Provide coloring books, crayons, balloons and other books to children in the child safe shelters in refugee camps at Tundikhel, as well as in our local area.
- Deliver tents to families in the hardest-hit areas, including Lekh, a remote area above Ama Ghar that had received no assistance from government or large NGO's since the earthquake hit two weeks ago. We also delivered food, medicine and toys for the children.
- In partnership with Gham Power, we delivered 70 units of 20-watt solar kits to remote villages. Each kit provides lights for three families and charges about ten mobile phones each day.
We are also continuing to source tents - our Ama Ghar Suisse family brought the first 30, and more are on the way. Thanks to a connection from a former board member, we also have a source for tents within Nepal so we should be able to provide shelter for many more families. This is a priority as many may be living in tents for a year or more.
In addition, we are in the process of setting up a Child Safe Place and a Temporary Shelter in one of the worst hit areas. We are funding and setting up a kitchen in this temporary shelter, which will keep displaced children safe until Child Protection Services can determine which children can be united with their families and which are orphaned or abandoned. Inevitably, there will be many displaced children, so we are preparing space in our Ama Ghar home to begin to take them in.
The relief efforts have only begun, but we so appreciate that even after the media attention fades, we have so much support from you, our international family. We cannot even begin to thank you enough - we couldn't do what we do without you. We will continue to send updates so you will see all the good things that your generosity is creating.
On Saturday morning, April 25, we had just finished picking potatoes at Ama Ghar and had placed them in a pile outside the kitchen door. Suddenly, our 5-year-old Rekha ran into the kitchen and yelled "Uma Didi, the potatoes are jumping!" As the ground continued to shake, our children did what they had been trained to do through countless earthquake drills - put down whatever they were doing and run outside to the open space. Soon, heads were counted and all those who live at Ama Ghar were accounted for. Other than the fact that supplies had flown off shelves and cupboards and there was some minor damage to one of the girls' rooms, our new home, build to withstand a 9.0 shaker, was intact.
We are lucky that we live in a rural area about 16 kilometers outside Kathmandu, with our own solar power and water and an organic garden. However, some of our older children are living, working and going to university in Kathmandu, so we were very anxious about their safety. They all texted us fairly quickly that they were alive, and they headed for Ama Ghar on foot, because earthquake damage had made motor traffic impossible.
And that was when the really hard work began. We realized that 90% of the houses in our surrounding villages had been destroyed, and our neighbors had no power to re-charge cell phones or emergency lights, so we got out the word that they were welcome to come to Ama Ghar and use our solar power for re-charging. We built makeshift tents for ourselves to sleep in outside, as powerful after-shocks continued, some as high as 6.0, which was terrifying for our children, who had been through so much in their lives already.
After five days, we moved back into the house and began to truly mobilize efforts to help our neighbors. Staff members organized some English and Nepali classes because the children were worried about how they would do on exams if they can't go to school, and the older kids kept the younger ones occupied with games and projects. Bhesh, Tan Bahadur and some of the older boys went out and began assessing damages and priorities: the first priorities were food, medicine and shelter, particularly for families with children or elderly people.
The boys built shelters as best they could with whatever tarps we could find, and we gave away all tents that we have, even a tent that the little boys love to play in - they gave it to a 72-year-old lady who lives alone so she wouldn't be without shelter. So far we have distributed hundreds of bags of rice, dal and hygiene supplies to the villages near us and even to some villages high in the mountains behind Ama Ghar, and we shared crayons and books to local children. When we found out that our local Health Center had run out of medicines, we bought all medical supplies we could find (by this time the road was open) and delivered to the Health Center.
Our children have always been taught that they are very lucky to be at Ama Ghar and that they should always help those in need, so the earthquake has taught some valuable lessons. The older children are very hands-on with relief work and the little ones are sharing their tents, crayons and books with local friends.
What we have been able to do so far is just a drop in the bucket, but the psychological lift that the village people are getting just from knowing that someone cares is immeasurable. They need food and medicine now, and it will be weeks and possibly months before any help arrives out here from the government, so we will continue our efforts.
Tents and tarps are what is immediately needed as the days go by and we get closer and closer to monsoon season. People may have to live in tents for a year or more. Thanks to you, we have money to purchase them, but there are no tents available. We have all our resources on the ground hunting for tents and tarps and we're confident that we'll get them sooner or later - we will keep you posted. But in the meantime, you are in our hearts - we know that there is a very long, difficult time ahead for our country, our neighbors and our family, but you have given us hope for the future.
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