Sewing together a new life after the Nepal earthquake

Sewing together a new life after the Nepal earthquake


Her old house turned to rubble, Bishwaya is now sewing for a better future. Read more. #NepalEarthquake

Laprak village is constantly in the clouds. At 2800 metres the weather changes frequently, at one moment revealing the panoramic view of ice capped mountains, but can then turn rapidly making it difficult to see beyond 10 metres. 

The village is in Gorkha district, which was the epicentre of the massive earthquake that devastated Nepal.

Bishmaya Gurung, 53, is a resident of Laprak, where she lives with her husband and son.

With a slightly embarrassed smile, Bishmaya explains that she was just coming from the toilet when the earthquake hit at around 12.30pm on April 25, 2015.

“I went to open a door in the house, but the earth was moving so violently that stones from the house began to fall. I picked up my son and ran as fast as I could away from the home, no sooner had I looked back our family home had collapsed,” recalled Bishmaya.

At the time, Bishymaya’s husband was building another home, and her first thought was to find him. When she found him he was unhurt, but equally shaken.

Some villagers moved to an open ground on a large terrace, where they would construct a shelter using just tarpaulin. 

“Nobody slept that night, we were too frightened. We had no blankets or mattresses, it was very cold,” Bishmaya said.

The next day, the community began to construct a temporary shelter that would protect them against the unpredictable weather. 

“In the beginning, helicopters used to bring relief items, but now the seasons have changed and they cannot fly or land. Everything is brought by foot now,” she added.

The current situation

Now living in a much more secure shelter in the informal settlement of ‘New’ Laprak just one kilometre from the village, the shelter that she lives in is secure, buffeting the strong winds and protecting them from heavy downpours.

Bishymaya has always worked as a tailor, making alterations, repairing women’s clothes, and is thankful that her sewing machine survived the collapse of the house.

“On a good day I can earn around 250 Nepalese Rupees ($2.50), but sometimes as little as 50 Nepalese Rupees ($0.50); and that isn’t enough to run the household,” she said.

“I think though, the most heart-breaking thing for us is that we put our life and soul in to the construction of our old house, working for years, investing up to Rs. 5 lakh ($5000); now that has all gone, and all that exists is a pile of rubble”

Response by Oxfam

A team of Oxfam from India reached the village in Gorkha district within the first few weeks of the earthquake, providing hygiene kits and tarpaulin. 

Oxfam has just completed the construction of a gravity fed water supply system from a high up spring that will go direct to the community.

“Previously, I would have to walk three hours to collect just 15 litres of water, but now I can reach a tap in just a few minutes, this is great. This means that I have more time to tailor, and to be able to earn money for the home,” said Bishmaya.


Written by: Sam Spickett/Oxfam

Photo credit: Sam Spickett/Oxfam




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