The date is 25th April 2015 - news about the devastating earthquake in Nepal seemed to be omnipresent in every news channel around the world. Scared and traumatised, everybody was unsure of the upcoming hours and days. Baseless forecasts and rumors about the earthquake shook the people even more. Most districts experienced the loss of lives, uncertain future, mental stress and physical and economic damage.
As a humanitarian response and realizing it as a responsibility we were down on the road with some relief materials in trucks. We had just entered the district when we felt we had reached a place where human civilization hardly existed. It seemed like the capital was unaware of the dilapidated state it was in; houses turned into a pile of dust and necessities of life buried under the rubble. We finally reached Rasuwa, a beautiful place in the hilly region of Nepal, where a normal house seemed strange - a thing to be analyzed how it could be standing while others are turned into dunes of bricks and woods.
Tired from the trip up there, we could feel our stomach churn-yearning for a warm rice, daal and curry. We could hardly see any place where we could sit and enjoy the meal. After a while, we found a place to eat. It did not serve us what we longed for, but it did serve us noodles which would keep us going for another couple of hours. As soon as we reached a hotel in our distinct jackets with organization’s name on it, we were surrounded by bunch of kids. Their staring eyes hinted they knew why we were there. One of them asked, “Are you here for relief?”
I replied to the kid – “Yes”. And we were again waiting for the food to arrive at our tables.
There he asked again “When are you distributing the relief materials?”
I was quite surprised to see the concern of a young child. Then he again asked us “Do you think we will live because our guru says there is going to be a big earthquake tomorrow?”
His mother was right there smiling behind him.
I asked the kid “Do you know what relief means?”
He answered, “Yes”
I asked, “What?”
He replied, “Tent”
We smiled, but it made us think. The reply made us ponder over the matter we were in.
He had seen his house collapse to the ground and it was his desire to have a home again. In fact, he thought we can fulfill his desire of having a house again - a house where he could nag his mother while she is doing her daily chores, where he could sit on the chest of his father, a home where he could be mischievous again and annoy his parents with his tantrums.
I then said,"sorry" because all we had was just food supplies that could last for a month for his family. He smiled. A moment later, he along with many of his friends started asking us a lot of questions. They started picturing us as “intelligent” people who knew everything. We knew we did not know everything. In the midst of all these, we could feel how traumatised the children were. Illogical predictions and rumors made by some insensitive people had those small buds thinking how they were going to fall off to the ground if another jolt was to come again.
Later we got busy in the distribution of the relief materials but my thoughts were still dwelling around the statements that came from the kids and the trauma that had scared the innocence out of them. It’s normal to be terrified after such a calamity and people making their own predictions which are supported by their personal science. Some people at the same time are aspiring to be the greatest astrologists with their predictions. But it is necessary to look back at who are the audiences listening to them.
The children have been creating a terrifying image painted with mud and blood based on the rumors and analysis. We will lose more from the calamity if this threat constantly follows our kids. There is very less any external agency can do as relief or as rehabilitation to the affected local residents. The dream of reconstructing the damaged areas and recreating the affected lives can only be driven with the hope, unity and the motivation of the people who belong to that place. So that’s what exactly what the children too need to believe in. The innocence needs to be nurtured with hope, belief and the unity.
It has been a wonderful experience working with the relief team of ActionAid. The approach that is being used has been appreciated by the community and mostly the victims of the disaster. We haven’t provided everything and neither can we do but we have been able to manage a little for everyone in coordination with the Local Administration and our Local Resource Partners. The best part has been that all have been sharing smiles and a good message of unity and hope with the relief materials. The smile that you get in return is the most motivating fact which keeps the drive to volunteer alive.