It was a Saturday morning and I was at my mother’s home in a suburb of Kathmandu, Nepal. My mother was preparing to go to her cousin’s engagement ceremony and I was begging her not to take my six-year-old daughter with her as the weather seemed to be worsening. All of a sudden we heard our water tank burst. As my mother rushed to turn off the electric switch, our house began to shake violently.
We screamed and wailed, but could do nothing. After 60 seconds of terrifying shocks we rushed outside and into our garden. All around us we could hear screams from our neighbors. My mind filled with fear as I visualized the terrible tsunami that had wiped out coastal cities in Japan a few years back. My heart pounded and my thoughts turned to worry about our family members.
Minutes passed in fear as the second terrible aftershock followed. We thought the land was going to open up under our feet. As this tremor passed we huddled together in terror. It was the worst day of our lives.
As strong aftershocks followed over the next few days, our fears and anxieties increased. We lost our appetites. We did not sleep. We dared not enter the house and lived in a temporary make-shift tent outside in the garden.
With each passing day, we began to find out horrific news of the scale of devastation and death. As of today, the government has announced more than 8,000 deaths and the numbers are increasing. Tens of thousands of people are homeless. Some villages have been entirely wiped out by the disaster. I feel lucky that my family members and I are alive.
As I regained my composure and confidence, I began thinking about how to help the victims of the earthquake through my organization, Social Empowerment through Empowerment of Women (SEEW). Many generous friends spontaneously came forward and were willing to volunteer. In the following days, we visited areas badly affected by the earthquake and distributed relief materials such as tents, floor mattresses, food items, soap and medicine through the generous support of women from a group called Rewire in California.
We visited the village of Baruwa in central district of Sindupalchowk, where we discovered some 70 earthquake affected victims scrambling for space in a tent that could accommodate no more than 20 individuals. We learnt that the 7.8 magnitude quake had wiped out the 558 houses in the village.
The choked voice of Tshwang Lama, a preacher and head monk in Baruwa revealed their horror. In a quivering voice he said, “nothing remains of our village, not a single house stands.”
The worn out tarpaulin tents will not protect villagers from strong gust of winds or rapidly approaching monsoon rain. We at SEEW were overwhelmed to hear about such devastation. Instead of continuing to distribute relief to victims in far-flung villages, we stayed on to help this community.