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The Nepal earthquake in April 2015 and the subsequent, ongoing aftershocks were a life-changing event for many of the individuals affected, and the organisations involved in providing relief and recovery after the event. Of an approximate 850,000 houses that needed rebuilding, approximately 150,000 have been rebuilt and a further 450,000 are under reconstruction now. Similarly, there are 7553 educational institution buildings (schools) that require reconstruction, and approx. 68% have been rebuilt or are currently under construction. Whilst these numbers somewhat show the extent of the damage, and the slow pace of reconstruction, we must remember that these all refer to people – people still living in temporary shelters, people waiting for their schools and health centres to be rebuilt, people still struggling to rebuild their lives.

Before the earthquake, Umbrella was a small organisation focused on child protection and supporting the children under our care in residential care, next steps education and reintegration programmes. ONGD-FNEL were Umbrella’s first institutional donor, and we only started working together in 2014. After the earthquake, Umbrella supporters around the world donated money to help with the recovery effort, and we also entered working partnerships with GOAL and UNICEF to implement some of their earthquake response programmes. At the same time, our partners at ONGD-FNEL were very flexible with their funding and allowed us to change some activities to provide necessary support after the earthquake (for example providing desks, benches and other equipment to schools which had been damaged or destroyed). Although these activities were outside of our experience, Umbrella were proud and happy to be trusted to implement these important programmes, and provide assistance to vulnerable people affected by the earthquake. Umbrella have finished working with UNICEF and GOAL, however we continue to implement our own earthquake response programme, supporting beneficiaries in 2 districts whose families were assessed at being at increased risk of breakdown (e.g. child being sent away, parent going away for work), with the aim of keeping these families together. We have also been fortunate to have the opportunity to revise some ONGD-FNEL activities to make them more relevant for issues after the earthquake – for example, our street dramas and radio broadcasts had some content in them that was specific to the earthquake context.

One positive thing that has come from the earthquake is the changing attitudes towards mental health. Before the earthquake, taking to a counsellor or psychiatrist was very stigmatised in Nepal – people and their families would feel a lot of shame about having to do this. But now, due to the large numbers of people that accessed mental health services, and the increase in availability of mental health services, that stigma is starting to reduce and mental health is better understood and accepted in society.