BHASBHASE, Nepal -- On April 25, 2015, when an earthquake rocked his village in Nepal, Sudarshan Chepang and his family huddled inside their home as it collapsed around them. After the shaking subsided, all that remained was rubble. They gathered what they could, mostly utensils, and fled outside.

Nine months later, Chepang, his wife and their two young children are still living in a temporary shelter made of salvaged materials, tarps and sheet metal. They have already endured the monsoon season, when moisture seeped in and spoiled food and bedding in some homes. 

temporary shelter in NepalSudarshan Chepang, his wife Jamnua Chepang, and one of their two children live in their temporary shelter in Bhasbhase, Nepal.Photo by Matthew Sawatzky

Now that it’s winter, when temperatures dip into the 30s and 40s, he’s worried about what comes next.

“We know it will be cold. But where else can we go?” Chepang said. “This is the only place that we have because we cannot build a new house yet.”

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is assisting families such as the Chepangs, as they await government support for construction of new homes. In December 2015, blankets, mattresses, plastic sheeting, tarps and jackets were distributed to about 30 households in Bhasbhase, in Nepal’s Dhading District. 

blankets for distribution in NepalCommunity members and MCC partners prepare blankets, tarps and other materials for distribution to 30 households in Bhasbhase, Nepal.Photo by Matthew Sawatzky

“This is very welcome, especially for our children,” said Chepang. “Now we have blankets and they will be warm.”

The distribution was done through Sansthagat Bikas Sanjal (Sanjal), an MCC partner in Nepal that works with several local organizations

Nepalese people take winter supplies back to their village.People from Bhasbhase, Nepal carry winter supplies back to their village.Photo by Matthew Sawatzky

More than 30 districts across Nepal are still struggling with the impact of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, as well as a second quake a few weeks later. More than 8,200 people died and more than 488,000 homes were affected. Toilets and drinking water systems were heavily damaged.

In Dhading District, 59 percent of homes were totally damaged and 25 percent were partially damaged.  

Ruins of a home in Dhading District of Nepal.This wall is all that's left of Tanka Bahadur Thapa Magar's house in the Dhading District of Nepal.Photo by Matthew Sawatzky

While the government of Nepal is promising financial support for people whose homes were destroyed, rebuilding efforts have been hampered by an ongoing political crisis and a critical fuel shortage. 

Juliana Yonzon, MCC’s program coordinator in Nepal, said thousands of people will spend several more months in temporary housing, sometimes with poor sanitation facilities.

Remains of an earthquake damaged house in the Dhading District of Nepal.The remains of an earthquake damaged house in the Dhading District of Nepal.Photo by Matthew Sawatzky

“We are worried about the impact of this on hygiene, especially for children,” Yonzon said. “As their immune systems are weakened by the cold, they can be more susceptible to pneumonia.”

Since mid-December, MCC and its partners have provided about 1,280 households with materials such as blankets and winter jackets in the districts of Dhading, Lalitpur and Okhaldhunga.

little girls show off their new jackets in Nepal.Ashmita Chepang, left, and Ashmika Chepang, right, show off their new jackets.Photo by Matthew Sawatzky

Ultimately the goal of the Nepal government, MCC and people without homes is to have permanent housing ready or underway before the next monsoon season in May. Working alongside local partners, MCC plans to support the most vulnerable people in four districts by helping them access government rebuilding funds.

MCC also hopes to support the training of masons and carpenters to work on new housing. And MCC would build model homes as examples of how earthquake resistant housing should be done, eventually donating the homes to families chosen by the community.

a man in a temporary shelter he shares with 4 family members in Nepal.Tanka Bahadur Thapa and four members of his family now live in a temporary shelter as they wait for a new house to be built.Photo by Matthew Sawatzky

Yonzon said as MCC works with partners in several communities, she’s impressed with the resiliency of the Nepali people.

“Through earthquakes, fuel blockades, they still get up each morning and do what they can to earn an income, take care of their children and deal with a situation that is not ideal,” Yonzon said. “I hope that we can help them as they work together to rebuild their lives.”

MCC is known for working with local partners to meet urgent needs quickly and for supporting long-term rebuilding months or even years after a disaster. Please donate to our relief work around the world.

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