Timothy Cohen from CAFOD’s emergency response team reflect back on his visit to Nepal. He talks about the role of an aid worker.
If someone tells you they’re an ‘aid worker’, how would you picture them? You probably think of someone who’s any (or all) of the following:
Photogenic (which rules me out!)
Holding a clipboard in a t-shirt with a cool logo
That’s certainly how we (the aid sector) have sold ourselves to the public for the past 20 years. It’s good for our image and our branding. And it’s not untrue either; but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
But if you’ve paid close attention, maybe you’ve noticed this narrative changing slightly over the past few years? Maybe you’ve noticed that members of the local communities, and the organisations that they work for, are in the spotlight more and more?
Two years on from the massive Nepal earthquakes, Milan Mukhia, who is based in Kathmandu and works for CAFOD’s partner, Cordaid, tells us about an innovative way your donations are helping people get back on their feet.
On 25 April 2015, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the area to the north of Kathmandu in Nepal. This was the country’s worst disaster in living memory; nearly 9,000 people died, thousands more were injured, and 600,000 lost their homes and income.
Just over two weeks later, on 12 May, a second 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, adding to the destruction.
Chris Bain, CAFOD Director, writes about his recent visit to Rasuwa district in Nepal one year on from two devastating earthquakes. Watch a short video of Chris in Nepal and read about some of the families who are rebuilding their lives thanks to donations from CAFOD supporters and the tireless work of our partners.
Just over a year ago, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal north of Kathmandu. A few weeks later, on 12 May, another 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck in the northeast of the country. Nearly 9,000 people died, thousands more were injured, and 600,000 lost their homes and livelihoods. One year on, I travelled to Nepal to meet the communities that were affected, and see the work that CAFOD through our partners in Nepal have carried out to help people recover from this tragedy. It was my third visit to Nepal and I was saddened to see the impact of the disaster on the beautiful landscape and villages we passed.
In Rasuwa, near the border with China, I met Kamala Thalea who lost her young son, two daughters and her mother when the earthquake struck. Kamala’s surviving daughter, Asmita aged 13, told me that she survived the earthquake because she was in a wooden section of their home, while her brother, sisters and grandmother were in a section of the house built of stone. Her hip was injured by falling rubble, but still she saved her two-year-old cousin who lay in the debris next door. Kamala was visiting her mother-in-law in a village three hours away, and arrived home the next day to a collapsed home and her lost children.
Janet Crossley is CAFOD’s Emergency Programme Manager for Nepal. One year on from the devastating earthquakes which struck Nepal in April and May 2015 watch Janet’s short video from Nepal and read how the generosity of supporters has helped our partners reach the people who were most affected.
When I arrived in the village of Bungkot in Gorkha district, piles of rubble still filled spaces where houses once stood. Grass and crops had already started to grow out of the heaps of stone and dust that families once called home.
I first visited Gorkha district in western Nepal three months after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck on Saturday 25 April. It devastated the lives of more than 5 million people, killing over 8,700, and reducing more than half a million homes to rubble. A second earthquake caused further destruction when it hit three weeks later on 12 May.
As we mark six months since the devastating earthquake hit Nepal, Stephen, a student at St Columba’s College, describes his unique fundraising idea to raise money to support people affected in Nepal.
The earthquake in Nepal was truly devastating, and when I heard of the suffering that these people were going through in the aftermath I was moved by the resilience that they showed.
I knew that CAFOD, our College’s charity, would be equally moved and their amazing volunteers wouldn’t hesitate to help. I wanted to do all that I could to support them, so I got to work brainstorming ideas. I knew it’d have to be something more ambitious than a bake sale or a bucket brigade, something that wouldn’t be forgotten the next day, something that would get the whole school involved.
The easiest way to get word around a whole school is through the staff, and I needed something that people would give money for. The students and staff of St Columba’s are often very philanthropic, so many of them had sent off donations privately. I needed a product that I could sell.
About the author: Jo Joyner is an award-winning actress and CAFOD supporter whose work includes No Angels, EastEnders, Ordinary Lies and The Interceptor. In July 2015, Jo travelled to Nepal where she met communities who were severely affected by the devastating earthquakes and saw how crucial the work of CAFOD’s local partners had been in providing life-saving aid. In the third of three blogs, Jo writes about her experience. Read Jo’s first and second blogs.
Many of Nepal’s schools were decimated by the earthquakes and for safety reasons the government put a hold on all school attendance for a month. This was to give the authorities time to visit those schools that were still standing but fractured, to give them the official stamp from the engineers and approve them as safe enough to house the nation’s young minds.
People I met told me that there was relief that the initial earthquake happened on a Saturday because this meant that many of the children were either outside playing or working in the fields. Open space is the safest place to be when there is an earthquake and looking at the rubble of a school in the heart of the old town of Kathmandu, I shuddered at the thought of that massive earthquake happening during the week, when families were separated and the schools were full.
We visited Mary Ward School in Kathmandu, which Caritas Nepal has been supporting for more than ten years. The girls at the school are the daughters of migrant workers from the countryside who have come to the city from rural villages.
The school is run by Sister Asha – whose name fittingly means ‘hope’. She has worked across South Asia for a lot of her formidable career, and when I asked her which country she preferred to work in, she replied sincerely, “I prefer to be where I am needed. I have God in my heart and do good work. So wherever I am, I am happy”.
The school is a sanctuary off a bustling, broken, dusty road. When the school’s iron-gates close the peaceful, plant-draped courtyard of Mary Ward School wraps its knowledgeable bricks around you.
We were greeted on arrival by an entire playground of immaculate students. I was instantly ashamed at the dishevelled state my twins are often in when they are thrown through the school gates – always late despite living on the doorstep. The students of this school were stood silently with radiant smiles, in pristine shirts and double plaits. They were proud. Proud to be dressed smartly. Proud to be clean and washed. Proud and hungry to once again be allowed to learn, read, write, sing and dance.
About the author: Jo Joyner is an award-winning actress and CAFOD supporter whose work includes No Angels, EastEnders, Ordinary Lies and The Interceptor. In July 2015, Jo travelled to Nepal where she met communities who were severely affected by the devastating earthquakes and saw how crucial the work of CAFOD’s local partners had been in providing life-saving aid. In the second of three blogs, Jo writes about her experience. Read Jo’s first blog.
I want to tell you about 35-year-old Kamala. A mother of three whose husband died in the earthquake, Kamala’s story will stay with me for a very long time.
Kamala is a Dalit woman, from the most socially excluded of more than 125 castes that exist in Nepal – one that we in the West may have heard of as ‘untouchables’. As such, Kamala and her children live outside a village on a patch of land, low down on the edge of the mountain. An unenviable location when the rain washes waste and rubbish from the village down to her door.
About the author: Jo Joyner is an award-winning actress and CAFOD supporter whose work includes No Angels, EastEnders, Ordinary Lies and The Interceptor. In July 2015, Jo travelled to Nepal where she met communities who were severely affected by the devastating earthquakes and saw how crucial the work of CAFOD’s local partners had been in providing life-saving aid. Whilst there she saw how CAFOD’s local partners were providing life-saving aid to some of the remotest. In the first of three blogs, Jo writes about her experience.
The massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April killed nearly 9,000 people, brought over 600,000 houses tumbling to the ground and tore apart the lives of millions. As if that wasn’t enough, just over two weeks later, on Tuesday 12 May, a second earthquake hit – adding to the destruction and suffering of the Nepalese people.
Before travelling to Nepal with CAFOD, I had very little knowledge of the country. I’d seen images in the months leading up to my trip of a devastated land, but despite this, I had no idea what to expect
We were staying in Nepal’s busy capital city – Kathmandu. A mixture of three and four storey buildings that have evolved over time, been extended and added to with more bricks than mortar! There are a lot of crazy wires and power cables – that I’m glad I don’t have to make sense of – which the monkeys use as their highway.
Traffic weaves between the locals who are completely unfazed. Everyone is keen to make their journey worthwhile – carrying as many cattle, goats or people in their cars or on their bikes as possible. All for one, and all for a lift!
Kathmandu was badly damaged by the earthquakes, but I was struck by the resilience of the people who live there. Cities are cities the world over and like London after the bombings or New York after 9/11, the only choice for a city at the heart of its country’s economy is to soldier on and keep business open. Just as the threat of a terrorist attack doesn’t keep Londoners off the tube, the threat of an earthquake cannot keep the Nepalese from going about their daily lives in their capital city. If huge devastation and destruction was what I was expecting to see, I was – gladly – disappointed.
Three months since Nepal was devastated by an earthquake, CAFOD’s Nana Anto-Awuakye visited a community receiving support thanks to your donations. She writes:
As we bump along the narrow potholed roads in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, heading east for a village in the Kavrepalanchok district, it’s hard to imagine that this bustling city, along with the rest of the country, was struck by a violent earthquake just three months ago.
The earthquake that hit on 25 April shattered lives and reduced ancient and modern buildings, as well as family homes, to rubble within a matter of minutes. It left almost 9,000 people dead and thousands of others injured.
Not more than three weeks later, amid the ongoing rescue efforts and emergency aid distributions, another powerful tremor shook the country, claiming more lives and adding to the human suffering.
It is testament to the Nepalese people that today you find terracotta bricks from collapsed buildings in Kathmandu organised into neat piles ready for re-use. It is only as you head out of the city on the tarmac road that you see structurally unsound, lopsided buildings, and houses cracked beyond repair. Seeing them jolts you into remembering the devastation the earthquake unleashed.
I ask our driver Rayesh how the capital has been cleared up and brought back to normal so quickly.
Lilian Chan, who works for our partner Caritas Australia, reports from Nepal.
The earthquake struck without any warning. One minute I was filming an interview with a villager. The next, I was running to an open field as the ground shook violently and debris from houses flew overhead. It was a truly terrifying situation. As I watched the clouds of dust rising above collapsed houses, I knew that Caritas’ presence in this community would be more important than ever.
Surveying the damage
After the ground settled, I walked around the village to survey the damage. Having lived through smaller earthquakes before, most people knew to take refuge in the open fields. I saw one young girl, probably no older than four, sitting with her family, her eyes wide with fright. People her age have never experienced anything like this.
It has been more than 80 years since Nepal has seen an earthquake cause this kind of devastation. Reaching a magnitude of 7.8, the earthquake has killed thousands of people and the United Nations say that more than eight million people have been affected – more than a quarter of Nepal’s total population. Many homes, schools and hospitals have been destroyed, and water and sanitation services have been cut off in remote areas.
As I travelled back into Kathmandu, the scene was heartbreaking. Buildings I had only seen for the first time days earlier were reduced to heaps of debris. People were evacuating their homes, with nowhere to take shelter. And we saw patients evacuated from the hospital. With nowhere to go, they had to be treated on the ground, out in the streets.
I have never experienced an earthquake before. The initial tremor is terrifying. But the continued threat of destructive aftershocks causes further damage and trauma to people who are already vulnerable. A few days on from the earthquake, fearful of the aftershocks, many people in Kathmandu were still sleeping out on the street or in open public spaces. Continue reading “Nepal Earthquake: A first-hand account”