Teaneck, N.J. - It was April 25 at 10 a.m. when I woke up after a restful night. As per my usual habit on a Saturday morning, I automatically reached my cellphone to check if I had received any notifications. To my surprise, my phone was flooded with multiple messages, missed calls, and many more Facebook notifications.
When I opened my first message, it read: “I am so sorry to hear about what happened in Nepal. I hope your family and friends back home are okay.”
At this point, I was very confused as I wasn’t aware of what had happened during the quietness of the night when I had fallen in a deep sleep. I opened my Facebook account and there on my homepage were updates on the devastation caused by the earthquake that day. My heart sank and I felt like I had been struck by a bolt of lightning. I tried calling my family but I wasn’t able to get through to them. Later I found out that most of the telecommunications were cut off because of the earthquake.
On April 25, at 11:56 a.m. local time, Nepal was hit by an earthquake that registered a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale and killed over 8,000 people. While the aftershocks are still being felt to this day, more than three million displaced people are living in temporary shelters.
The devastation not only took many lives but also a significant portion of the infrastructures that were unique to the country’s history. For instance, Dharahara, a famous historic nine-story watchtower which was built in 1832 and restored in 1936, became a graveyard for hundreds of people as it fell down to the ground. Similarly, many other world heritage sites including Boudhanath temple, Swayambhunath temple, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu Durbar Square, and many other cultural sites were severely damaged.
The people of Nepal not only went through the grief of loss of family members and friends but also experienced loss of their identity and culture. Yukta Bajracharya, resident of Kathmandu, described her experience as “traumatizing especially since news about damage and death flowed in from Kathmandu [her hometown] and [she] was away from [her] family and loved ones.” Bajracharya told Global Young Voices that “the shaking has left an impact and changed the course of life for every Nepali, although in varying degrees. For some, the earthquake has even left for some paranoia caused by the shaking ground, and for others a void created by the loss of their loved ones and lots of financial assets.”
During this time of turmoil, many international, national and local organizations as well as individuals came together to help in the rescue and relief efforts. Following the massive earthquake, many local communities collaborated to organize relief and rescue efforts. One such local community was Ekata Samuha, an all-women run group which immediately started collecting relief materials such as tents, clothes, foods and sanitary equipment and had them delivered to 210 families in Gorkha Ale Gaunwhich was one of the most damaged areas. “There was no time to waste,” Tara Devi Lama, secretary of the Ekata Samuha and principal of J.B. Memorial English School in Kathmandu told Global Young Voices. “Every minute I was alive gave me another minute to help those in need.”
The same feelings were expressed by thousands of Nepalis when they all came together to volunteer. As Bajracharya said, “it was truly heartwarming to see so many people willing to help.” She was very impressed by the quick response of local voluntary groups in reaching to places and people before the arrival of official aid workers.
While local efforts were well underway, Nepalis all around the world displayed acts of solidarity through candlelight vigils, and fundraising activities. The global community at Fairleigh Dickinson University's Metropolitan Campus displayed great deal of support by making the candlelight vigil a successful event and helping raise donations that were sent to the Nepal Earthquake Relief fund through American Red Cross Society.
Many independent non-profit organizations also stepped up to help rebuild the community. Yangmali Rai, resident of Missouri and founder of Yang-Ward Foundations which is dedicated to helping single woman in rural Nepal, said that he was able to raise $15,000 through Yang-ward foundations, which was immediately used in providing basic things like tents, food and medicine in Kavrepalanchowk, Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha and Dolakha. He further mentioned that Yang-ward foundations implemented “three goat-farming projects” in Dolakha especially for the single mothers who were deeply affected by the earthquake.
Additionally, they also helped build a temporary hut for a single woman from Dolakha who works for the Yang-Ward foundation and whose house was devastated during the earthquake.
Since, interest grew among people around the world who were willing to volunteer, Yang-ward foundations also introduced a platform known as Fund ProVo which not only provides a platform to raise money without any charge but also gives opportunity for people to connect to local organizations and experts for volunteering activities.
All local, national, and international efforts made in order to reestablish the community and help the victims of the earthquake were highly commendable. It was indeed a true display of national pride, honor and humanity.
But reestablishing the community is not the only problem faced by Nepal today. In the light of the destructions, the tourism industry seemed to be dwindling with multiple inbound flights getting cancelled and hotels being shut down. Since Nepal’s economy is heavily influenced by the tourism industry, it is most imperative that a boost in the tourism industry is needed to help the country get back on its feet.
With that in mind, various efforts have been made in order to promote tourism and since June 15, the country has reopened its heritage sites for tourists. In order to promote tourism in Nepal, Rai suggested the Nepalese government should invite a foreign celebrity or a public figure which would boost the popularity of the nation during the plight to save the tourism industry. Although not a supporter of using public figures for publicity, Rai believes that since the visit of a renowned international celebrity is a great publicity and the government has the resources and means to do it, they should give it a try.
Meanwhile, Nepal is getting ready to welcome tourists and natives back to the country for its celebratory autumn season which is filled with national celebrations.
Although the media portrayed significant destruction throughout the country, the fact is only a few area were severely damaged and that much of the country is still in its pristine state.
cartoon credit: cagle.com