POKHARIDANDA, Nepal – Knock-kneed children drag scavenged sleeping mats into tarpaulin tents. Grandmothers clear rocks from demolition sites once called homes. And prodigal sons who rushed home to comfort their mothers are building new structures to shelter them from the rain.
A week after the magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Nepal near here, in the central Gorkha district, people in many villages along the roads have stopped waiting for the government to bring help.
Their needs are vast, but Nepal is so short on relief supplies and the means to distribute them that officials are focusing on the farthest flung reaches of the remote Himalayas.
That leaves villages like Pokharidanda to fend for themselves. And so everyone who is able is pulling together and pitching in.
Occasionally, someone will show up with aid. A group of nurses, for instance, has set up a makeshift medical tent, where toddlers covered in bedbug bites and women with toothaches can find relief.
"It is very difficult to live here," said 25-year-old Namaya Shrestha, looking up at the tiny shelter she built from scraps of salvaged corrugated tin. She and the other members of her family now sleep in shifts. Finding somewhere to use as a bathroom is a challenge, with the village latrines destroyed.
After collecting a small bag containing lentils, potato chips, salt and a few T-shirts from a men's club from a neighboring region unaffected by the quake, Shrestha attempted a half-smile. "I feel a little better, at least now I have something," she said. "But I can't do much with this, I have such a big family."
Lila Khanal, 48, was overwhelmed when her 23-year-old son, Damodar, returned home from his engineering job in part of Nepal. Two days later, she was still grabbing hold of him, pressing him close in relieved embraces. He's been lobbying to agencies for money to rebuild.
"There is no time to waste," he said. "In a few weeks, the monsoon rains will come. It will hail. These shelters will collapse."