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A year after the earthquake: An emotional return to Nepal

Elitsa was caught up in the earthquakes in Nepal
Elitsa was caught up in the earthquakes in Nepal

In April 2015, Elitsa Dincheva who works for SOS Children’s Villages in Germany, was on the climbing trip of a lifetime in Nepal when the earthquakes struck. One year on, she returned to the country to see the impact of SOS Children’s Villages relief work.

The two earthquakes that devastated swathes of Nepal in April last year were the deadliest natural disaster anywhere in the world in 2015. Some 9,000 people died and more than 24,000 were injured. It is estimated that the damage caused will take over $6 billion to repair.

Elitsa and her climbing group were enjoying an adrenaline fuelled trip in the Himalayas when the first earthquake struck on April 25th. “It was like the whole mountain was moving,” she recalls. Fortunately, Elitsa and her group were unhurt but they knew immediately that others wouldn’t have been so lucky.

Earlier this month, we caught up with Elitsa as she returned to Nepal for the first time since that deadly day:

You saw first-hand the extent of the damage a year ago. Do you think much progress has been made on the road to recovery?

“Honestly it is difficult to talk about much progress. Some kind of normality is there but the ruined houses are everywhere. Most of the victims of the earthquake still live in temporary shelter close to their damaged houses. You can see heaps of bricks that people saved from the ruins, but reconstruction has been slow.

The government promised to give 200,000 rupees (the equivalent of around £1290) to each family that lost a home, but the whole country is in a holding pattern. It is estimated that some 600,000 people are waiting for government support.

It is pretty ridiculous – the Nepali government has been too slow in providing help for those who need to rebuild their homes, even though there has been financial support from all over the world. I was told that some elderly people and children lost their loves during the winter because of the lack of adequate shelter. That makes me angry.

How is SOS Children’s Villages helping?

Elitsa returned to Nepal a year after the earthquake
Elitsa plays with Sujal who lost his mum in the earthquake. Returning to Nepal has been an emotional experience for Elitsa

The situation is tough, but we are supporting all our beneficiaries to the best of our ability. Whilst they don’t have new houses yet because of the delays, they have received our ‘home-in-a-box’ kits which include warm clothing, several blankets, food, bottled water, cooking utensils and hygiene packs.

We are also providing farmers with buffalos, chickens and goats so that they can re-start their lives, earn a decent income and not end up slipping into hopeless poverty. 

Since the earthquake first stuck, we have been identifying children who have lost their parents and are living with other family members and making sure that they are cared for properly. We’re providing many of these families with financial support. We’re also covering the school fees of thousands children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to continue their education.

What has been the stand-out moment of this trip for you?

The most powerful encounter I’ve had by far is with Sujal. I first met him a few days after the earthquake in the Kavre relief camp – he was two and a half years old with a broken leg in a cast. His mum had died when their house collapsed and his dad works abroad and can’t take of his son.

A year ago, Sujal’s future was very uncertain and I left Nepal with a very heavy heart worrying what would happen to this little boy.

I was so happy to be reunited with Sujal! He’s living with his aunt and SOS Children’s Villages support her so that she’s able to give Sujal the best childhood possible. When I visited him in Jorpati, I found a happy little boy full of joy and energy. He was jumping around like a little tiger – it was good to see that his leg has completely recovered. I left Nepal this time feeling much lighter.

Find out more about how we're helping Nepalese people get back on their feet.