Ganeshmaya Dannekhu, 72, wakes up every morning at 5am to clean her small shed and feed and milk her cow. She then sets off for the local dairy to sell her milk, arriving no later than 6:30am. With typically nine litres of milk to carry, it’s a strenuous 20-minute walk to the dairy from Jhaukhel, her village in Nepal’s Bhaktapur District. Many of the buildings in the village were severely damaged by the massive earthquake that hit the region in April 2015.

Like many villagers in the area, Ganeshmaya lost her home in the quake. A widow with no children, she was taken in and helped by neighbors until she was able to build a small hut for herself.

Ganeshmaya says her life has seen many ups and downs since her husband passed away 30 years ago, but the earthquake brought new challenges that made it even more difficult to survive. Plus, she was finding it increasingly hard to grow crops on her land.

However, the situation changed dramatically when she was selected to receive cash assistance from the Nepal Red Cross Society as part of a programme to help earthquake survivors revive or establish new livelihoods after the disaster. The programme meant Ganeshmaya could combined 19,000 Nepali rupees (about $185 USD) from the Red Cross with her own savings, so she had enough to buy a milking cow that gave birth to a calf several months later.

“My days of happiness started with this cow,” Ganeshmaya said. “I no longer have to beg for pennies to buy food or medicine. I don’t know exactly how much I make, but I can tell you it’s enough for bread and butter.”

The Red Cross team helped Ganeshmaya to calculate her earnings and she was pleased to discover that her average monthly income from selling milk was 8,100 rupees.

“This cow is a great blessing to an old granny,” she said. She also thanked her visitors for giving her courage and a helping a hand. The cow was not just a lifeline, she said, but also helped her gain the respect and friendship of fellow villagers because of her hard work and success at such an advanced age.