Nepal Earthquake: United in tragedy
By Holly Frew, CARE’s Emergency Communications Officer based in Atlanta (except when deployed to an emergency.)
It is hard to fathom that in a matter of seconds, an entire village could be turned into a heap of rubble. But that’s exactly what happened in Baruwa, a village in Nepal.
Like many of these remote villages, access to Baruwa has been cut off by landslides from the earthquake. The only way to get in is by helicopter or foot, so our team drove as far as we could by car, and then hiked the remaining 6 miles to Baruwa where we camped overnight to make plans to help this village.
As we made the three-hour trek in the heat of the day, I did not realize the level of needs and destruction that lay ahead of us, but I had an idea after we hiked over a treacherous landslide. The higher we hiked, the higher the level of damage seemed to get.
We finally arrived in Baruwa exhausted to find a village sprinkled with piles of rubble and makeshift tents. We learned that in the entire village district around 500 houses, and 1000 buildings, including shops, schools, health clinics and barns were completely destroyed. The number of buildings still standing? Maybe five total.
As we explored the village, there were people working together everywhere trying to salvage whatever they could from the rubble and debris. One of their biggest concerns was food. So many people lost their food when their houses came down, and with monsoon season coming, they have no shelter to house their upcoming wheat harvest. I saw people sifting through bags of millet seeds that they had pulled from their damaged homes tediously trying to separate the millet seeds from the dirt and sand, so they could have more food to eat.
The people of Baruwa have lost everything, but as we stepped into their lives, a beautiful sight began to emerge. They have united like one big family supporting each other through this tragedy. They are grieving together, cooking and eating together, pooling whatever assets they have left together and living together.
As an aid worker, I don’t usually cry when responding to an emergency. There is so much work to be done in such a rapid pace that emotions take a backseat, and there is often a level of disconnect due to language barriers that keeps emotions intact. But then I met 19-year-old Pasang who broke those emotional barriers. She lost her home and her entire family in the earthquake. The remaining closest family member is her sister-in-law. She is seemingly all alone, but the people in the village have taken her in as family.
Every night Pasang holds a Buddhist puja on the mound of rubble that used to be her home and she lights candles to honor her dead family members. A puja is an act of worship to a god or higher power. Outside the collapsed monastery, a community puja is held where everyone in the village worships and prays to honor those who died and those impacted by the earthquake.
Just two weeks after the earthquake, people are still grieving their deep losses here and simply trying to salvage what’s left of their homes. Thoughts and plans of how to rebuild are not really on their minds, but their need for food and stronger shelter are, as they are terrified of the approaching monsoon season.