When an earthquake strikes, collapsed homes are the most visible reminder of destruction. People dig through broken cement for signs of life or memories. They affix tarps to stacks of rocks that once stood as walls of their home. Rubble is everywhere. But rebuilding a home isn’t typically the first thing people can or want to do in a quake’s immediate aftermath. Tarchin Tamang, a father in Nepal who is in the midst of reconstructing his home—nearly two years after the quake—explains the timing.
“The earthquake took my mind. The first year after an earthquake, you are living in a state of confusion. It’s hard to make sense of anything. Although you know you need to plan shelter – where to build, how to build – you can’t really plan because of this confusion. At that time, you can’t build on the land because it is not stable and because of the aftershocks. After the initial trauma, our family started evaluating what we should do about a home.”
Tarchin, like every other earthquake survivor in the Himalayan country, had to wait for official guidance from the Nepal government before starting reconstruction on a new house. Once the guidance was clear, he worked alongside the Red Cross to make it happen.
The Red Cross trained and certified 1,000+ masons to lead safe home reconstruction—one of which Tarchin is depending on to oversee construction. The Red Cross also funded architects and engineers from the organization Build Change to consult on the design of Tarchin’s home—to ensure it will be built in a way to better withstand future earthquakes and line up with government guidelines.
Tarchin and his family received funds from the Red Cross to buy materials or services of their choosing. They used the money for bricks, rebar, and sand for the one-story structure. “We weren’t sure what we could afford, but the amount of money we received to rebuild gave me confidence. We decided that our family could put in the labor ourselves in order to save on costs.”
Tarchin’s 23-year-old son, Prakash, and 20-year-old daughter, Anusha, are helping with the build. As they make measurements, install rebar, and lay bricks, they are being overseen by a certified mason and Red Cross-funded engineers. The engineers visit build sites a minimum of 15 times to provide technical advice and ensure quality. Tarchin is glad for the help, but also proud to contribute the sweat equity. “A certified mason is supervising the build, but we are learning how to do it ourselves. I am glad my family could put time and labor into our home.”
The family is hopeful about their new home, but also know that another earthquake could strike at any time. “Our old house was unsafe, but this one has a good foundation and other elements – like rebar – that should keep us safe. We are taking a lot of care while building this house to make sure we are safe in the future. We’re being extra careful because we know it’s ours.”
It’s been nearly two years since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Himalayan country – devastating families and communities. Red Cross teams delivered critical aid in the disaster’s aftermath and are still helping people recover. The American Red Cross is working alongside the Nepal Red Cross, the Spanish Red Cross, and the Canadian Red Cross on helping people rebuild their homes; spreading health and vaccination messages; constructing water and irrigation systems; replacing medical equipment; restoring people’s livelihoods; and more.