Samita rebuilt her house after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal

Opening the door to lasting solutions

As a widow struggling to raise two children, Samita did not know how she managed to survive after a devastating earthquake hit Nepal in 2015 and reduced her house to rubble. “In my opinion, it is difficult to live as a single woman in our society and it is even more difficult if one does not have a decent house,” she said.

Samita and her sons had to live in a temporary shelter for three years. Life started to look up in 2018 after she rebuilt her house in Baluwa village, Panchkhal municipality, Kavrepalanchok district, with Habitat for Humanity Nepal’s support.

“I rented land and with the help of my sons, we grew potatoes and other vegetables which brought in income and food for us,” Samita recalled. She also added a kitchen and a new line for electricity has been connected to her home. She shared, “My elder son just got married. I recently purchased a cow and I plan to add an extension to the back of the house for a cowshed.

“Having a Habitat house built up my confidence to take out and repay the loans. I have started saving for the future as a member of a local microfinance institution.”

Samita rebuilt her house after it was destroyed during the 2015 Nepal earthquake

Being a homeowner, Samita is confident to take out and repay microfinance loans. All photos: Habitat for Humanity Nepal/Aalok Khatiwada.

“My sons are now grown up. I can breathe a sigh of relief,” said Samita. “If one has the courage to fight, solutions for survival will be revealed through the difficulties. Now I do not feel that being a single mother will make any difference if one is self-empowered.”

On April 25, 2015, Nepal was hit by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people and destroyed over 400,000 homes, and left 2.8 million people displaced.

Habitat Nepal and Architecture Sans Frontiers partnered with over 5,000 families in Kavrepalanchok and Nuwakot districts to rebuild earthquake-resilient homes. A report commissioned by Habitat and published in April 2020 outlined four emerging lessons with insights for future disaster responses by governments and various stakeholders.

Meet other families like Samita who have found lasting solutions to their shelter needs.

Calling it the scariest moment of her life, Balkumari and her youngest daughter managed to run out of their house before it was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. For more than a year, a shelter made of corrugated roofing sheets was their refuge. Balkumari had to see a doctor weekly after she developed a chronic cough and back pain. The doctor cautioned her against staying in a cold place. “But I had nowhere to go except for the cold temporary shelter during winter,” Balkumari recalled. Five years after moving into her new house that she built with Habitat’s support, Balkumari feels much healthier although she still has to take medicine regularly. She is able to carry on with household and farming activities to earn a living for her family.

When her house in Anaikot village, Kavrepalanchok district, collapsed during the earthquake, Kamala and her son Ujjwal were trapped and had to be rescued from the rubble. Living in a tent made her feel vulnerable. “There was always the fear of tigers and flooding,” said the single mother who had to provide for her son after her husband left them. Staff of Architects Sans Frontiers, Habitat Nepal’s implementing partner in earthquake recovery efforts, persuaded Kamala’s husband to provide a piece of land. Thus, she was able to rebuild her home and raise goats to sell for some income. She also plans to keep a cow and buffalo to improve their financial situation. “This house is the first step in fulfilling my dream to give my son a good education.” She was heartened when her husband returned after several years and acknowledged their son.

When Ram Maya’s family of four was living in a temporary shelter, they had to store the harvests outside or in their earthquake-damaged mud house. About a quarter of the harvested potatoes and rice was lost due to dampness, rodents, squirrels, and insect infestations. The house that they rebuilt with Habitat in Pipaltar, Kavrepalanchok district, has a solid foundation and concrete floor that keep out dampness. “Now we can store the crops and sell at higher prices and even have enough rice for ourselves,” Ram Maya said. She is motivated to increase her farming activities to generate more income. She also plans to add another room to their house in the future.

Sabitri and her family had continued living in their earthquake-damaged house in Kavrepalanchok district for three years until she could rebuild her home with the support of Habitat Nepal. With her elder son, who works in a hotel in Kathmandu, supplementing the family income, Sabitri is able to take care of her husband who is paralyzed and her younger son. “I took a loan from the local women cooperative to convert my damaged house (into a barn) for raising chicken and cattle. I have repaid the loan and am planning to take a new loan for buying more chicken and adding goats.” With more earnings, she wants to add more rooms, particularly as she plans for her elder son to get married.

Samita and her family of four endured five years of living in a small, dark shelter made of tin sheets after their old mud house collapsed during the 2015 earthquake. All of them had to sleep on a mat on the ground and her husband suffered from back pain as a result. Her younger son Aryan could not concentrate on his studies as he was afraid of caterpillars and other insects that crawled into the temporary shelter. After rebuilding their house with Habitat, Samita bought a bed and her husband can sleep better. Now both her children can study at night without worrying about insects and snakes getting into the house.“ I never imagined that we would be able to get out of the hut. But Habitat Nepal helped us to achieve the unimaginable,” Samita said.

A decent home and conducive learning environment enabled Sushant to pass his high school exams with flying colours. “I have a proper room with electricity at night to prepare for my exams.” After the 2015 earthquake, his family had lived in a temporary shelter made of corrugated iron sheets. The cold affected his mother Sita Maya’s health. “My mother feels very weak and not many people want to hire her.” In 2018, their family was able to rebuild their home with Habitat Nepal. Sushant’s goal is to look for a job and earn enough for his mother’s treatment. “I plan to paint our house and add another story for my future family.”

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Calling it the scariest moment of her life, Balkumari and her youngest daughter managed to run out of their house before it was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. For more than a year, a shelter made of corrugated roofing sheets was their refuge. Balkumari had to see a doctor weekly after she developed a chronic cough and back pain. The doctor cautioned her against staying in a cold place. “But I had nowhere to go except for the cold temporary shelter during winter,” Balkumari recalled. Five years after moving into her new house that she built with Habitat’s support, Balkumari feels much healthier although she still has to take medicine regularly. She is able to carry on with household and farming activities to earn a living for her family.

When her house in Anaikot village, Kavrepalanchok district, collapsed during the earthquake, Kamala and her son Ujjwal were trapped and had to be rescued from the rubble. Living in a tent made her feel vulnerable. “There was always the fear of tigers and flooding,” said the single mother who had to provide for her son after her husband left them. Staff of Architects Sans Frontiers, Habitat Nepal’s implementing partner in earthquake recovery efforts, persuaded Kamala’s husband to provide a piece of land. Thus, she was able to rebuild her home and raise goats to sell for some income. She also plans to keep a cow and buffalo to improve their financial situation. “This house is the first step in fulfilling my dream to give my son a good education.” She was heartened when her husband returned after several years and acknowledged their son.

When Ram Maya’s family of four was living in a temporary shelter, they had to store the harvests outside or in their earthquake-damaged mud house. About a quarter of the harvested potatoes and rice was lost due to dampness, rodents, squirrels, and insect infestations. The house that they rebuilt with Habitat in Pipaltar, Kavrepalanchok district, has a solid foundation and concrete floor that keep out dampness. “Now we can store the crops and sell at higher prices and even have enough rice for ourselves,” Ram Maya said. She is motivated to increase her farming activities to generate more income. She also plans to add another room to their house in the future.

Sabitri and her family had continued living in their earthquake-damaged house in Kavrepalanchok district for three years until she could rebuild her home with the support of Habitat Nepal. With her elder son, who works in a hotel in Kathmandu, supplementing the family income, Sabitri is able to take care of her husband who is paralyzed and her younger son. “I took a loan from the local women cooperative to convert my damaged house (into a barn) for raising chicken and cattle. I have repaid the loan and am planning to take a new loan for buying more chicken and adding goats.” With more earnings, she wants to add more rooms, particularly as she plans for her elder son to get married.

Samita and her family of four endured five years of living in a small, dark shelter made of tin sheets after their old mud house collapsed during the 2015 earthquake. All of them had to sleep on a mat on the ground and her husband suffered from back pain as a result. Her younger son Aryan could not concentrate on his studies as he was afraid of caterpillars and other insects that crawled into the temporary shelter. After rebuilding their house with Habitat, Samita bought a bed and her husband can sleep better. Now both her children can study at night without worrying about insects and snakes getting into the house.“ I never imagined that we would be able to get out of the hut. But Habitat Nepal helped us to achieve the unimaginable,” Samita said.

A decent home and conducive learning environment enabled Sushant to pass his high school exams with flying colours. “I have a proper room with electricity at night to prepare for my exams.” After the 2015 earthquake, his family had lived in a temporary shelter made of corrugated iron sheets. The cold affected his mother Sita Maya’s health. “My mother feels very weak and not many people want to hire her.” In 2018, their family was able to rebuild their home with Habitat Nepal. Sushant’s goal is to look for a job and earn enough for his mother’s treatment. “I plan to paint our house and add another story for my future family.”