Rough Road to Recovery
I was away in Pokhara when the earthquake hit, and I wanted to be back in Kathmandu as soon as possible – not only because I wanted to be with my family, but because I wanted to move out to the field and start helping. I have been with Save the Children for more than 21 years, and have worked in emergencies like floods and landslides. My family is well aware of the kind of work we do, and has always been supportive. However, this time around, it was different. They did not want me to leave them and go away at such a risky moment.
I said to them, “Nothing has happened to us, we haven’t lost anything. My heart is telling me that I should be out in the villages.” They understood my predicament, and I left almost immediately for Barpak, the epicenter of the earthquake. We stayed in Gorkha, the district headquarters, for a few days. After that, we went on to Barpak. The roads were split open, and I waited and stopped at many places before moving ahead. I drove with my hands on the steering wheel, but my eyes on the hills overhead – a dry landslide could come tumbling down anytime. Sometimes, when I told our team members that it wasn’t safe to go further, we would take out the stuffs and start walking.
It was a difficult time – local community members who wanted relief to reach their communities first stopped our team. We constantly negotiated and coordinated to make sure we were reaching our target communities. I was responsible for much more than driving, and worked relentlessly to help distribute the materials we had with us. In total, I spent 33 days in Gorkha, and 18 days in Rasuwa afterwards. Of course, the latter two deployments were much more systematic, and we had good processes and personnel in place by then. The whole time, although we faced so many challenges, I was enthused by the idea that we were actually making a real difference in the lives of people. We were helping them regain their health and education, we were supporting them rebuild their homes and lives. That, I think, is what humans are supposed to do.
One incident really stands out – we reached Arupokhari, a remote VDC in Gorkha. We helped build the Child Friendly Space (CFS), distributed required materials, oriented the community members to send their children to the place. When the children ran into the tent and started reading books, singing and dancing, and playing joyfully, it made me feel very happy – we had done something worthwhile in bringing cheer to these children’s lives!
This experience has been invaluable to me, and I will go out again in such situations without a second thought.
Photo: Rishi Aryal drinking tea midway while returning from the field