​​Dale Nafziger and his wife, Bethsaba, operate the Top of the World Coffee Shop in Kathmandu, Nepal.

By Wil LaVeist
Wednesday, July 6, 2016

​ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) — More than a year after nearly 9,000 people were killed and 22,000 were injured during an earthquake and aftershocks in Nepal, full recovery remains elusive. But at Top of the World Coffee in the capital city of Kathmandu, hope and help endures.

 

 

The café, owned and operated by husband and wife Dale and Bethsaba Nafziger, and supported by Mennonite Mission Network, serves as a community gathering place. The complicated recovery from the South Asian nation’s worst natural disaster in 80 years has been overwhelming, but the Nafzigers have been able to count important humble victories: taking part in a coffee-growing training session in nearby Nuwakot District; being able to fill up their auto at the pump for the first time in more than six months; and, finally, seeing the monsoon rains saturate the parched dry-season earth, and enjoying the fresh mangos that the monsoon season brings.

“The earthquake brought a totally unexpected boon of emergency relief workers to Nepal,” Dale Nafziger said. “This generated windfall business.”

However, with the relief workers having now nearly all departed, the present challenge for the café is to maintain customer volume and hopefully provide more jobs, opportunities, and eventually reach profitability, he said.

Nepal was known for farming, but has become more known for exporting migrant workers who leave to provide for their families. The Nepal Institute of Development Studies estimates that at least 2.2 million Nepalis (nearly 10 percent of the population) work abroad.  

“There is literally no family in Nepal that is immune from the immense social impacts of what is locally called ‘man power,’” Dale Nafziger said. “Top of the World Coffee stands against this phenomenon as a testimony that Nepal is an immensely resource-rich country offering a broad scope of opportunities … for those who are willing to look for them.”

After the Apr. 25, 2015, earthquake, the café became an informal operation base for a team of volunteers. Dave Mansfield, who, like the Nafzigers, is supported by Vincent (Pennsylvania) Mennonite Church in the Franconia Mennonite Conference, led a team of 17 to the heavily damaged outlying villages – situated well outside Kathmandu, the capital city where earthquake damage was minimal. The Nafzigers provided a place to store equipment and to organize medics and aid workers. They connected the team with Nepalis who were leading efforts and could offer vital cultural guidance, such as language translation.

The 7.8-magnitude quake was followed by a 7.3-magnitude aftershock on May 12, 2015. There have been more than 450 aftershocks exceeding Local Magnitude 4 in the following year. Nearly 800,000 homes were destroyed. More than 8 million people were affected across 39 districts. 

The Nepali government has not been able to promulgate an effective post-earthquake building code. Reports are that millions of committed reconstruction dollars remain on hold, Dale Nafziger said. The government estimated rebuilding would cost more than $10 billion. Much debris has since been cleared, but there has been little reconstruction. More than 600,000 Nepalis remain in temporary or unsafe housing. 


 

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​Wil LaVeist is a writer and managing editor for multimedia at Mennonite Mission Network.

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