In the year since Nepal was hit by its biggest earthquake in 80 years, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) relief efforts have directly impacted over 49,000 Nepalis, with a special focus on empowering women in the areas of livelihood and health. Five new community centers have been established by JDC with local partners, serving hundreds of women and their families with childcare, psychosocial counseling, and tools and skill training. Recent seminars trained women to weave local materials into rugs and cushions for purchase by Kathmandu businesses and instructed local women community health volunteers in safer motherhood and neonatal care methods. To date, 80 percent of the $2.4 million raised in donations from the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors has been invested by JDC in Nepali emergency and recovery efforts.

‘As we’ve learned from our experiences in other disasters, women, though hardest hit by a crisis, are critical to the recovery of families, communities, and nations in challenging times,’ said Mandie Winston, director of JDC’s Disaster Response and International Development Program. ‘Together with our local partners, we have deployed a variety of programs including these new community centers to bring Nepali women together in the spirit of mutual support and empowerment.’

When the earthquake hit Nepal, 63-year-old Bimla, a farmer, returned from the fields to find her home destroyed. Living in a temporary shelter for the past 11 months and unable to return to farming, she recently completed weaving training at a JDC-established community center. ‘This training has brought me new joy. To be able to be with other women in the community and share common experiences have given me strength,’ said Bimla. JDC has long deployed a community center model — where a variety of human and cultural services are developed around vulnerable and evolving communities — among Jewish and non-sectarian populations. These include a network of Jewish Community Centers developed in emerging Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union as well as Community Cafes for displaced people in Japan after the tsunami and earthquake in 2011 and a series of multi-purpose community centers developed in Sri Lanka after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004.

JDC has also focused on livelihood development, disaster mitigation, public health access, and education in Nepal. JDC, working with local partners, has built resiliency among more than 3,000 people in over 20 vulnerable villages in the event of future disasters through youth leadership, strategic disaster planning, and community empowerment programs. JDC is additionally supporting the reconstruction and upgrade of two medical clinics in the Dolakha district. The clinics, scheduled to open by June 2016, will serve more than 4,700 Nepalis, providing maternal care, orthopedic treatment, and other services. To date, JDC has delivered shelter supplies, hygiene items, medical supplies, clean water, and food to over tens of thousands of people living in the country’s most remote and hard hit areas.

JDC’s Nepal relief partners include: The Afya Foundation, All India Disaster Mitigation Institute, Heart to Heart International, Homenet, IDF Field Hospital, Integrated Development Society -; Nepal, Israel Trauma Coalition, Magen David Adom, NATAN, Possible Health, Rural Reconstruction Nepal, Teach for Nepal, Tevel b’Tzedek, and UNICEF.

JDC’s disaster response and recovery efforts in Nepal are made possible thanks to the generous support of the Jewish Federations of North America as well as thousands of individual donors and foundations. JDC has provided immediate relief and long-term assistance to victims of natural and manmade disasters around the globe, including the Philippines, Haiti, Japan, and South Asia after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and continues to operate programs designed to rebuild infrastructure and community life in disaster-stricken regions.