Within a few days of the first Nepal earthquake of 25th April, I found myself with World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello in a small mountain village called Paslang, close to the epicentre of the quake.

The village was in ruins, piles of rocks bearing no resemblance to the homes they were.

It was not long before our attention was directed to a young man by the name of Bhoj Kumar Thapa who was picking through the rubble wearing a cap that said “I love Nepal”.

IN ANOTHER WORLD: Bhoj Kumar Thapa, whose pregnant wife was killed in the April earthquake, having saved the couple's five-year-old daughter. PICTURE: Corey Scarrow/World Vision Australia

"Only hours before the earthquake, thousands of Australians stood above the beach at Gallipoli to honour the sacrifice of the Anzacs 100 years ago and heard the familiar word of John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. But here, on a mountainside in Nepal, there was no greater love than that of a mother who lay down her life for her daughter."

Bhoj, 30, is a soldier. On the day of the earthquake, it took him 12 hours to return to his village. It was dark when he arrived and he picked his way through the rocks by torchlight to the place where his wife Sushila was found dead. Sushila, 26, was eight months pregnant.

As we sat on the rocks together, talking quietly, his friends one by one coming to sit by his side, he said he felt lost, “like I was in another world”, and that something within him had also died. He hoped that time would give him a way to move on.

But Sushila had done something extraordinary before she died. With the earth roaring and heaving and rocks falling about her, Sushila shielded their five-year-old daughter, Sudikchhya, underneath her pregnant body and then, in her final moments, pushed her clear.

Sudikchhya was found unconscious by her grandfather, Sher Bahadur Thapa Mager, who said he cried with sadness and relief, for the life that was sacrificed and the life that was saved.

Only hours before the earthquake, thousands of Australians stood above the beach at Gallipoli to honour the sacrifice of the Anzacs 100 years ago and heard the familiar word of John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. But here, on a mountainside in Nepal, there was no greater love than that of a mother who lay down her life for her daughter.

One month after the 25th April earthquake, the death toll in Nepal stands at more than 8600,  including 150 who died in a second earthquake on 12th May - the same day that Joe Hockey cut Australia’s foreign aid budget by a further $1 billion.

Since coming to office the Abbott Government has cut foreign aid by an unprecedented $11.3 billion to 0.22 per cent of gross national income – 22 cents per $100.

Because of the earthquake, aid to Nepal was frozen rather than cut as Australia’s aid focus contracted to the Pacific and Papua New Guinea, which was rewarded for hosting the Manus Island immigration processing centre. Aid to countries in Asia was cut by 40 per cent while aid to sub-Saharan Africa was slashed by 70 per cent, decimating aid to the world’s poorest people. Aid to the Middle East, the world’s most volatile region, teeming with refugees, was cut by 43 per cent.

Nepal after the earthquake was an assault on the senses. On the banks of the Bagmati River, which is considered holy by both Hindus and Buddhists, smoke rose in constant plumes from mass cremations. In the centre of Kathmandu, people walked in the rubble of the UNESCO-listed Dharahara Tower, only to discover from the increasing smell days later that there were more bodies still to be recovered. In the ruins of Bhaktapur, a small mercy caused rejoicing when a baby boy, Sonit Awal, was rescued after 22 hours under rubble. His father, Shyam Awal, had heard his cries.

Nepal sits at the meeting point of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates, massive forces of nature that created the Himalayas and still clash and create earthquakes. It is beautiful and remote and one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, a country of 29 million people ranked 177 of 195 nations by gross domestic product per capita. 

After the 25th April earthquake and again after 12th May, Nepal’s overwhelmed government appealed to the world for help and the needs are many, in both the short and long term. Across all of Nepal’s severely-affected areas, the immediate needs are shelter; water, sanitation and hygiene; food; and protection. With the monsoon season approaching, World Vision has reached 30,000 people so far with tarpaulins, roofing sheets, blankets and food and aims to reach 100,000 people.

When it was impossible to get aid into Nepal by air through the small funnel of the Kathmandu airport, blankets were brought overland from India. Child friendly spaces were created as a haven for children, who are vulnerable in disaster, physically and psychologically. Longer-term, World Vision, which has been involved in Nepal since 1982, will assist with the rebuilding - and better than before so that when the earth shakes and roars, people do not die in their thousands.

It will be a long road, but long roads give people the chance to meet. On the day of the second earthquake, a story appeared in The Age about a group of homeless people at a soup kitchen outside of Melbourne who had passed the hat for the people of Nepal, reasoning that the people of Nepal were much worse off than they were. They spoke about knowing what it was to need a helping hand. After the story appeared, Nepalese people in Victoria contacted the soup kitchen to say thank you and to offer to cook them a meal. It was a very human exchange. 

To donate to World Vision Australia’s Nepal Appeal, call 13 32 40 or visit www.worldvision.com.au.

Stuart RintoulStuart Rintoul has been a journalist for 35 years, writing for some of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He is the author of Ashes of Vietnam and The Wailing – A Black Oral History. He now works at World Vision Australia where he writes about international emergencies and humanitarian need.