Battal, Hazara District, Pakistan - Two weeks after the earthquake, 13-year-old Mahommad picked through the concrete rubble of his half-standing school building here, searching for his books and his backpack. He left them behind when he fled Battal's Secondary School for Boys, escaping alive and unhurt moments before the building collapsed.
Some of his classmates were not as fortunate. When the walls gave way, more than 40 students were killed and another 100-plus injured.
Mahommad and his friends eventually returned to search for lost belongings - risking their lives in a region where aftershocks continue flatten crumbling buildings. The Pakistani Army had provided land and tents so schools in the town could reopen, but no supplies. The students began making due without books, pencils or even a blackboard.
"I am lucky I found my books," he said after retrieving them from the rubble. "Many of my classmates cannot find theirs. They are completely buried and destroyed."
This week, Mercy Corps stepped in to supply students at Mahommad's makeshift school and three others in Battal. Aid workers are distributing bookbags, textbooks, coloring books, crayons and other items to children. The agency is also supplying recreational equipment such as volleyballs, badminton sets and cricket gear to provide fun and therapeutic afterschool activities.
The agency plans to open four more tent schools next week in Hillkot, with more reopened in the coming weeks.
Reopening schools is a huge step towards helping children heal from the trauma they’ve suffered due to the earthquake and its aftermath. The regular school day helps provide a familiar routine for children that establishes a sense of normalcy to their lives at a turbulent time.
As Pakistan recovers from this disaster, Mercy Corps will continue to respond to needs of survivors - including the emotional needs of children.