As we mark two years since Nepal’s devastating earthquakes, we draw inspiration from the brave responders who rushed to the frontlines of relief efforts despite suffering personal losses and setbacks. Today, these leaders continue to help their communities get back on their feet and rebuild the country—brick by brick, village after village.
The April 2015 earthquakes and a succession of powerful aftershocks claimed more than 8,000 lives, displaced hundreds of thousands of residents from their homes, and reduced entire villages to rubble. The quakes triggered furious avalanches and landslides that flattened entire communities while cutting off others from aid and assistance.
In the wake of the disaster, AJWS immediately joined with local partners on the ground to ensure that remote communities and those often neglected in times of crisis—women, ethnic minorities, refugees, people with disabilities, and others—received the aid and support they desperately needed. Although the heroic efforts of first responders didn’t always make headline news, we at AJWS are inspired by their resilience and courage.
Over the next few days, we’ll be sharing three stories about courageous activists who are building a better quality of life for Nepal’s people. Here’s our first story:
Power of youth: Pasang’s story
On the day of the first earthquake, 23-year-old Pasang Tamang was in Kyanjin, three hours away from his home, tending to his family’s guesthouse. As Pasang stepped out to survey his surroundings once the rumbling came to a halt, he heard a heavy roar in the distance that grew louder and louder. Tremors from the earthquake had dislodged glaciers from nearby mountain peaks, resulting in a massive avalanche of snow, boulders and other debris that came sweeping through the area. “I was sure I was going to die,” he recalled. Pasang narrowly escaped injury by quickly taking cover behind a large rock.
The next morning, Pasang returned to his hometown in the remote Langtang Valley—home to a tightknit community that traces its roots to Tibet—to see hundreds of houses buried under debris from the avalanche. “It was a desert. All I could hear was the sound of crows,” he recalled. More than 300 people died and hundreds more suffered injuries.
Pasang spent two weeks searching for traces of his parents. “I had nothing,” he recalled. “No blankets, no food, no shelter.” Officials concerned over the possibility of additional avalanches ordered Pasang and the other remaining survivors to evacuate the area. “I still haven’t found my parents’ dead bodies,” Pasang said.
Despite his enormous losses, Pasang felt compelled to help survivors from his community, who had made their way to the capital Kathmandu following the evacuation. “I didn’t have property but I had power,” he said. Pasang gathered young men and women to accompany the injured to hospitals, distribute medical supplies, and create temporary shelters.
When they returned from Kathmandu, Pasang and his friend Chhime founded the Himalayan Community Committee (HCC) to continue recovery efforts. With AJWS’s support, HCC constructed several greenhouses that have produced ample supplies of vegetables that feed dozens of families in Langtang, where land is often hard to cultivate and produce often takes days to reach. “We are now growing locally and people get fresh vegetables all year round,” explained Chhime. The greenhouses have also been a boon to the livelihoods of families, who can take surplus vegetables and sell them in local markets or barter them in exchange for other goods and services.
Sumit Galhotra is the Communications Officer for Human Rights and Story Development at AJWS.