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Visiting communities to listen to stories of loss and repair destroyed hopes for survival

Notes from the field -Subhash

Visiting communities to listen to stories of loss and repair destroyed hopes for survival

When a terrible earthquake of 7.4 on the rector scale hit Nepal for the second time yesterday afternoon, we were in Khadichaur village in Sindhupalchowk- the worst affected district with highest casualties. We were very close to the epicenter and the shake was terrible. I could see landslides around the hills in some distance while I was standing in the middle of the road in the quake moment. By chance, we survived the scary moment, immediately started rescue and counseling to badly scared and crying people in the field. We returned back to Kathmandu in the evening ending 3 days visit to the devastated communities.

Meeting with District Land Rights Forum members. Photo credit, Subhash May 2015

This relief trip bagan just days before the second quake was to hit. During this trip we mainly did two things:

First, met with District Land Rights Forum (DLRF) committee and Village level forums to get first hand information and an idea about the real situation on the ground.

DLRF is an organization of poor farmers, landless people, victims of land related issues who have been experiencing injustice for generations; they are doing nonviolent movement in Nepal. These are one of the communities in Nepal who have and will have a harder time to overcome recent calamities, as they do not have voice, power or access to reach the relief packages offered by the government, and many other national and international agencies. Therefore it is very important to pay special attention to them to inform, help and facilitate. In the meeting with the representatives of these communities, we heard about human and other losses in their families, experiences and feelings during and after the earthquake, and the hardest things they are facing now to continue their living.

We discussed how important the immediate relief is and for how long.

Then we talked about- ‘what next?’

At the end, we have decided that the DLRF members will go back to the villages and sit with community people and discuss and share the issues and information we talked about in the meeting. We also decided to spend 4 days to collect necessary information to make decisions on what and how is the best way to support earthquake victims who have also been the victims of structural and cultural violence in the country for generations. The members are now in the field. We will meet again after 2 days and will decide about what and how we support our brothers and sisters further.

 

Gathering and sharing with community people in Thami village. Photo cerdit, Subhash May 2015

Second, we visited hard hit families and communities. We listened to their stories, loss and experiences. We cried and shared empathetic presence together to mourn the loss and about how to continue living life in these hardships. We talked with mothers who have lost 2-3 children. We invited communities to gather as much as they can in the coming days and talk to each other, share stories and help others in need and each other to heal. This way we visited 6 communities in 2 days. The communities were very happy to have us to talk to and feel our concern to their difficulties. In the communities, we also talked about the issues we discussed in our earlier meeting with DLRF.

 

One of the families who needs our support to rebuild their life. We are planning to reach them as soon as possible. Photo credit, Subhash May 2015

It  was then, when we were on the way back to Kathmandu, we were caught by another major earthquake. We continued our involvement immediately in the situation on the ground. I and my friend Mrs. Kalpana Karki both remained safe. We lost contact from our family members and everyone was worrying too much for not knowing our situation and loosing contact for several hours. Somehow after about 3 hours we managed to send a text to my sister and that was huge relief.

We immediately started to help and counsel crying and panicking women and children and took them to the safer place across the river. We helped a few injured people. And, we took a bus through the roads blocked by earthquake resulted landslides and arrived Kathmandu at about 8PM.

After this most recent earthquake, I am receiving calls for immediate relief from the worst affected places. We need more resources and the courage to deal with the situation.

In friendship,

Subhash

 

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