I am lightly jolted as I kneel at the cupboard in my office in Kathmandu and the earthquake alarm dings briefly. I ignore the aftershock as it is so small but a Nepali colleague starts to yell loudly and rushes outside where she gets on her motor scooter and rides off to her small sons’ school to make sure they are safe. From a nearby college there is a great hubbub as students move outside in response to the slight quake.
It is months since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated large areas of Nepal on 25 April, and for most people life has now taken on normality, albeit an altered one. However, the emotional scars have not yet healed and some people react badly to even the smallest of the continuing aftershocks, which trigger memories of frightening experiences.
Recently a Nepali man recognised me in the street in Kathmandu and called out. He was someone I had worked with in the hills at Okhaldunga Hospital in 2004. He told me his wife and two daughters had been killed in the earthquake and his 19-year-old son had had both his forearms amputated because of a crush injury. I asked about another man I had worked with at the hospital and whose daughter’s wedding I had attended – he was killed in the earthquake my friend replied. All quite shocking for me.
I work for International Nepal Fellowship (INF) and, although it is not a relief organisation, immediately after the earthquake it quickly formed a disaster response group that organised relief supplies and utilised government and other community contacts to offer medical aid and make distributions of emergency food and shelter to some of the worst hit areas. INF liaised with the Pokhara Christian Community (PCC) and its social welfare arm, Asal Chimekee (meaning ‘good neighbours’). As well as PCC supplying and distributing much aid, it also provided volunteers, mostly from youth groups, who worked tirelessly with INF, packing goods, loading trucks and distributing the relief items. Many local church and para-church organisations were also involved in relief work.
At a feedback meeting in one village, the people told the Asal Chimekee team that they were happy with the quality of food, materials and training that had been given to them. One leader asked if the team were there to convert people to Christianity. The team took the opportunity to explain why they, as Christians, were doing disaster relief and explained how many people around the world loved the villagers and had contributed generously. These misconceptions are not uncommon and it is also frequently assumed that Christian organisations will only help Christians. The media often does not report on what is being achieved by Christian organisations but this does not deter the ongoing work.
The initial relief efforts are over but many in the hilly regions where destruction was worse than in Kathmandu are still suffering badly as whole villages were shattered and the roads needed to bring help are impassable due to landslides and the monsoon rains. A new phase has begun now, one of rebuilding. INF has been allocated an area in Ghorka District by the government to work in; its immediate focus has been the provision of materials for emergency shelters and the building of Temporary Learning Centres to replace the many destroyed schools, as over one million students have not been able to attend school since the earthquake. INF is also working with local churches to respond to community needs.
Likewise, Asal Chimekee is continuing its work and practically providing for people with such things as seed distribution, constructing health posts, schools and toilets and running children’s health camps. It stepped out in faith with $7,000 and God provided one hundred times that in the weeks that followed but future plans require that much again. Please remember the people of Nepal and organisations like INF and Asal Chimekee that are showing Christ’s love under adverse conditions.
Rowan Butler is an Interserve Partner serving with INF‘s Communication’s team.
Images courtesy Rowan Butler.