2 Years After the Quake & We Need Helpdesks More than Ever
By Hannah Clift | Nepal Fellow
April 25th was a day of remembrance across Nepal, as the country's 28 million citizens and many others across the globe marked the 2 year anniversary of the first earthquake that devastated the country in 2015. It also marked the start of GlobalGiving’s matched giving campaign. For us, it marked 64 community meetings in eight months alone, 13 of which were women’s groups and 4 more of which were meetings for marginalized populations. In those 8 months we reached 3,451 people directly through community meetings and over 100,000 through community radio. Now we’ve begun distributing monthly bulletins (we’re on our 4th issue!) with critical information to reach even more people and are busy collecting data through surveys.
We’re very proud of these numbers and grateful for the many people who helped us achieve them. But two years after nearly 9,000 lost their lives and millions were left homeless, it’s not the numbers we remember.
It’s Kabiraj, whose family was living in temporary housing for over a year unable to access government aid until we took up his case, who we remember. We remember Chandramaya and her husband, whose home reconstruction stalled for lack of an engineer. Their challenge was broadcast by our radio-journalists and, thanks to going public, they finally slept in their own home again last April. We remember the five households at the last community meeting in Sindhupalchowk who secured an inspection from the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) engineers we brought to the meeting and were finally able to continue construction on their new homes.
Finally, we remember the hundreds of people our staff and CFAs meet every week who still desperately need information and assistance. For some, a community meeting is the only time they receive reliable, meaningful information or have the chance to voice their concerns directly to the people who can help them. Thank you for all your help making these meetings possible, and we hope you’ll continue supporting us as we empower communities with information and connect them with vital services. Right now, GlobalGiving still offers you the chance to maximize your impact by automatically matching your donation 50%, or 100% if you set a recurring donation. Please consider taking advantage of this opportunity if you haven't already, and help us spread the word about it in your networks. Thank you so much all your support that makes this work possible.
“I finished rebuilding my house’s foundation, but I’ve been waiting a very long time for an engineer to inspect it so I can qualify for a government grant,” Kabiraj told a Citizen Helpdesk Community Frontline Associate (CFA). He’s been without a home for nearly two years now in the village of Dhading in the Nalang District, because he hasn't been able to access the inspection services that would allow him to receive the promised funds for rebuilding. Sunita, a woman single woman from Irkhu Sindhupalchowk, faced similar obstacles when she was not issued a citizenship card, leaving her completely unable to access government relief funds.
It is precisely these kinds of gaps between citizens, officials, and public service providers that makes Citizen Helpdesk so necessary – and why we’re working harder than ever now to expand its scope. Beyond community meetings, our radio program Sabal Samydaya has been an effective tool for reaching wider audiences, who can listen to broadcasts of the meetings and call in with their own questions. We are also excited to announce the recent launch of the Citizen Helpdesk Bulletin, a monthly newsletter filled with real citizen concerns, solutions, and contact information for the appropriate government bodies. We distribute hard copies of the bulletin and also share it on our website. This expansion is shaping the Helpdesk as a platform that can address other community concerns, such as resource shortages, women’s programming and, in particular, labor migration. Our Community Perception Surveys revealed that labor migrants are one of the most vulnerable groups, and we believe that the Helpdesk can address one of the primary causes of this vulnerability: a the lack of information.
After months of waiting for an engineer, Kabiraj’s issue was addressed directly by an engineer who he met at a Helpdesk community meeting. Sunita found her solution as well after a CFA advocated for her with the Chief District Officer, finally securing her citizenship card and allowing her to receive the first installment of the government funding. Bringing together all of the stakeholders makes a tremendous difference in the lives of the people in these districts. It’s thanks to your generous support that we have been able to expand the Helpdesk and broaden its impact for not only earthquake survivors, but women, youth, and labor migrants. Keep an eye on the Facebook page to see the for yourself the results of your contributions for Sunita, Kabiraj, and so many more. Furthermore, if you're interested if seeing the Mobile Citizen Helpdesk's impact in person, considering joining us for a Social Impact Tour of Nepal in April!
Last month in Mahadevistan VDC, in the Kavre District of Nepal, a large group of women filled a room, sitting on sofas or the floor, and standing if necessary. They’d witnessed the destruction of their homes and livelihoods a year and a half earlier in the earthquake, few had had consistent information since and fewer had even begun the rebuilding process. Our Mobile Citizen Helpdesk hosted this meeting to give them a platform to raise their voices on the lack of fairness in the relief process and learn how to access support. “The women communicated freely and clearly amongst each other, empowered by the knowledge that they were surrounded by others who were facing many of the same issues,” reported Sara Rodriguez, one of our residents in Nepal.
After learning about their challenges, our team connected them with the according institutions to solve their problems. For example, a widowed woman named Bed was not able to receive government aid because all the properties and the legal papers were in the name of her husband, so our Community Frontline Associate Shyam reported this story to the VDC secretary, who helped her transfer the legal property documents to her name and receive the first relief installment of 50,000 rupees from the government. Our associates also helped a group of these women find the information and support needed to finance their micro enterprises.
The meeting was part of a larger Mobile Citizen Helpdesk movement to close the feedback loop between earthquake survivors and relief providers. Our associates on the ground in earthquake-affected areas continue to survey representative samples of earthquake survivors on their information needs and support received, and then report that information back to key relief actors who use to guide their support. Last month, 46% of the respondents from 3 districts said they are facing shelter-related issues and lack information on the related policies and legal documents - so there is still much work to be done. Our team will continue to fill the information gaps and support those who lack access to the aid process.
These efforts and all future ones are entirely made possible with the support of donors like you. We'd like to sincerely thank you again for your help in one of Nepal’s most difficult hours and the continued aid as the Mobile Citizen Helpdesk ensures that all voices are heard and power-holders are held accountable. During this season of giving, please consider giving again to support this important work and encouraging your family and friends to do so as well. If you’d like to know more about the ways your contribution is rebuilding lives, please subscribe to our Nepal newsletter at the bottom of our website.
Women rebuilding their homes in the Kavre district
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