Earthquake Response

On April 25th, it was one year since an earthquake with the magnitude of 7.8 hit Nepal. Two weeks after, on May 12th, a powerful after shake stroke again with a magnitude of 7.3. Almost 9000 people died and the disaster affected the whole country.

Working with Red Cross Youth in Nepal, we have gotten to know two young volunteers who contributed as Red Cross volunteers in their own ways, before, during and after the earthquake.

Suraj Ghimire (22) was in Sankhuwasabha Distrikt, in the eastern part of Nepal, as part of a Red Cross training April 25th, 2015. He was eating lunch when he first felt the shakings. His glass of water fell down and the hotel owner shouted: “Earthquake!”. Suraj followed the procedure of “duck, cover and hold” and seated himself under the table with the other guests. When the shaking finally stopped, they ran out and discovered that the Red Cross building was partially damaged, but luckily, all the participants were safe. Sankhuwasabha was not one of the most effected Districts. Still, the earthquake was so powerful and followed by so many after shakes that Red Cross encouraged everyone in the area to sleep outside. Together with other Red Cross volunteers, Suraj established emergency shelter for thousands of people within one hour using tarpaulins and tents.

Two days after the earthquake, Suraj received a phone call from the head quarter of Nepal Red Cross Society, and was deployed to Ramechhap District as a part of the National Disaster Response Team. They conducted an initial rapid assessment of the damage after the earthquake, in cooperation with local volunteers. After collecting data from households, schools and health services, it became clear that the immediate need was tarpaulins because no one could sleep inside due to damaged houses and security.

Kunal Mishra (20) is a Red Cross volunteer through his Red Cross Youth Circle in Kathmandu. Right after the earthquake, he helped distribute tarpaulins and food in different parts of the Kathmandu valley. Then he was mobilized by the head quarter in Nepal Red Cross Society to give psychosocial support to the earthquake victims, both in Kathmandu and in Dolakha District. Kunal worked from 8 in the morning to 20 at night to meet the high demands and enormous needs. During daytime, he walked from household to household, often many hours a day in remote areas where the only possible way ahead is by foot. In night time he wrote reports. Kunal met people who had lost everything, and took his time to listen to their stories, and in that way making a sad situation a little bit better. He describes how he made many people smile and laugh again.

To be young in an emergency is not easy. For Suraj, one of the hardest things was not being able to call his parents the first days because all the phone lines were down. With their knowledge and expertise as Red Cross volunteers, both Suraj and Kunal had a strong wish to help those affected. Suraj says that he and five other friends started to help immediately and that many other youths did the same. The youth motivated and encouraged each other and helped with the distribution of tarpaulins and other emergency aid. Still, according to Suraj's experience, most of the volunteers were localized in the Kathmandu valley, and it was harder to find volunteers, both youth and in general, in Ramechhap District. The situation within each family was bad and several of the youths did not get permission by their parents to leave their homes. In the Kathmandu valley, Kunal experienced many active young volunteers who worked hard and effective. He firmly states that youth can contribute with positive, high energy and a lot of courage. Kunal himself is satisfied with his own effort and happy that he as a young person were able to contribute when it was needed the most.

In the time after the earthquake, Kunal has continued his studies in biochemistry and been an active volunteer by contributing as First Aider at different events. Last week he was hired with a 2 year contract with Nepal Red Cross Society as a Social Mobilizer in an ERO (Emergency Response Operation) project. Suraj, on the other hand, went from volunteer to employee in September last year. He is one out of ten employees in Tanahun District that works under the CORE (Community Resilience) programme. They work closely together with the VDCs (Village Development Committee) and communities in the District to strengthen their preparedness capacity.

For us, it is inspiring to see and hear of the efforts and courage of Our two Nepali friends. Nepal Red Cross Society are Lucky to have you!

Jaya Red Cross!

Lise and Liv