Earthquake response

Building safer, stronger schools

Nepal earthquake: one year on

A year on from the devastating earthquakes in Nepal, the Himalayan Trust builds the foundations for safer, stronger school facilities across the mountainous Everest region.

When a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April 2015, followed just 18 days later by a second large earthquake, almost 9000 people were killed, 600,000 homes were destroyed, and thousands of schools and health facilities were severely damaged.

“It’s been a challenging year for Nepal,” said Prue Smith, General Manager of the Himalayan Trust New Zealand. “Existing problems of poverty and remoteness have been exacerbated by the fuel blockade with India, escalating prices for construction materials and a shortage of labour. Yet despite the challenges, the people of Nepal and the communities we work with have shown remarkable strength and resilience. With the emergency phase behind us, our focus is now on helping communities rebuild and recover.”

“The scale of the destruction and ongoing aftershocks has left no one in any doubt that Nepal needs to build back better. As we replace and rebuild school facilities, it’s vital the new buildings meet the highest safety standards.”

The New Zealand public donated over $1 million to the Himalayan Trust earthquake appeal.  Thanks to public donations and the New Zealand Aid Programme, the Himalayan Trust provided emergency shelter materials, built 31 emergency homes for families who had lost everything, and constructed temporary learning classrooms in over 30 schools.

“The support of the New Zealand public for those affected is staggering, and reflects the special relationship Kiwis have with Nepal. Sir Edmund Hillary’s devotion to the country and its people continues to inspire so many of us,” said Smith.

“That generous support meant we were able to get over 6000 school children back into class just three weeks after the second earthquake. After a disaster of this magnitude, it’s so important to get children back to school as quickly as possible to restore normal life and stability, and as a way to help them cope with fear and loss.”

The Himalayan Trust rebuild programme now in progress will see the construction of 120 classrooms, teachers’ quarters, student hostels and toilet blocks at 30 schools, including some of the most remote schools in the Solukhumbu district of Nepal. The new buildings will meet the latest building codes on seismic resistance, employ traditional construction techniques, and utilise recycled and locally available materials wherever possible. It is estimated it will take up to three years to complete the work.

The Himalayan Trust has established a team of Nepali engineers and building supervisors to manage the multi-site, multi-year project, supported by New Zealand project manager Howard Iseli.

Local young people will be offered the opportunity to work and learn alongside skilled tradespeople. This on-site vocational training will help address the problem of labour shortages and bring much-needed new skills and employment opportunities to this remote, mountain region.

“This is an ambitious, long-term commitment from the Himalayan Trust to the people of the Everest region. We simply couldn’t do it without the ongoing support of New Zealanders,” said Smith.

Map of the first eight schools to begin construction