On Saturday evening I was talking with Nasreen on the phone about a young Muslim girl who had come to her for help, she told me that the girl is from a village outside of Kathmandu and had fallen in love with a Hindu boy from the village. This is something that is not accepted in her family so they brought her to Kathamndu to separate her from him and hopefully stamp out their connection. This girl approached Nasreen for help because the boy who had never come to the city before in his life sent her a message saying he is coming to the city to find her, she needed a safe place to meet with him and requested her help. Nasreen was telling me just how much she felt for this girl because like her she is from a very strict Muslim village and also faced extreme hardship when she decided to refuse her forced marriage and shun her family by doing so. She said the young boy had called her cell phone that morning in a panic because he had arrived in the city and had no idea where he was or how to get around. It was at this moment in our conversation Nasreen stopped and said out loud “what is this?”, then I heard screaming followed by loud sounds of glass breaking, thumping, crunching and the line went dead………
The next 30 mins of my life crawled by as I tried to reach her with no avail and understand what had happened. Slowly the reports started coming in online about the earthquake and I plummeted into sadness and thoughts for Nasreen and all of my family and friends in Nepal. When River and I were in Nepal in January he had brought up the conversation about “what if” an earthquake hit Kathmandu? In our travels we are accustomed to working in dwellings made from simple brick, or old crooked buildings, janky make shift structures and not really thinking twice about an exit plan incase of an earthquake. We talked about the likelihood of mass devastation if indeed Nepal was hit by a large quake and pondered the question as to how the country could recover with limited resources and a weak public works department. We left that conversation in Nepal in the winter, it is now spring and these questions have been answered.
I was finally able to get Nasreen on the phone 30 mins later. She sounded dazed and nervous, she happened to be in a big open market with a bunch of the LWH women that day and although buildings came down near them they were all able to escape injury. She said the force of the quake was so strong it through her down sending the phone we were on flying out of her hands, it was only later that a man picked up the phone and returned it to her was she able to receive my call.
She was immediately thinking about her shop, the LWH building, and all her family and friends that live at and use the facilities everyday. Had the building collapsed, was anyone inside? As I talked with her 4 more after shocks hit and I could hear screams of fear in the background. Nasreen and the group she was with chose to wait it out in the open market for hours as the after shocks kept coming. It was later they joined a group on the lawn of the vice president of Nepal to share in some warmth for the night and protection from the crumbling structures everywhere. That night the rain came and saturated everything and everyone, when I talked with her in the morning I could her the toll the night had taken on her, the anxiety produced by the continual after shocks, the crying from people around her, she was overwhelmed with it all and coming down from shock.
As I read more and more about the quake in the press I started to see familiar places I new very well in complete and utter destruction, the district of Thamel has been hit very hard. I also read about a conference that was held in Nepal just a week prior with “50 earthquake and social scientists from around the world” who had come together in discussion as to how to better prepare for a quake like this. Unfortunately to little to late for the people of Nepal.
When I got thru to Nasreen next she had gone to the shop and surveyed the damage, LWH shop in Poknajol was still standing but has suffered from some large cracks in the building, she was heart broken to see some buildings around her had collapsed and killed some of her neighbors. After inspecting the situation the group decided to move themselves out side of the city to the LWH building project in Goldhunga village. It is there where they have decided to stay as they have fresh water from and open spring, an electricity inverter that was charged, some food supplies and safety in the open area away from crumbling buildings continually hit by aftershocks.
When I spoke with Nasreen this morning she had spent the day with her group going around the village of Goldhunga giving aid to people and documenting what they needed. I could tell in her somber tone that the sadness of it all had really started to sink in and she was feeling for all the people suffering. She did say that overall the people of Nepal are all just trying to help each other, in a country that survives each day hand to mouth there is no time for anything other than just picking up and moving on moment to moment.
To everyone that has contributed to the ongoing building campaign in any way for LWH through Offerings or any of the other links, THANK YOU! The building is now serving as a hub for the village to share resources and assess the damage and aid needed in the surounding areas.
I will be writing more about this as the days go on, I can say that some of the women are still not accounted for at LWH, one of who is Parbati and her daughter Osika. These 2 are particualry close to our hearts and we hope they are safe and secure and just not able to get thru on the cell networks.
I will be updating again in the next few days as things progress.