Tackling the Temblor

The 7.8 magnitude seism that brought the tragedy to Nepal on 25 April 2015 also united many helping hands at HERD. Series of earthquake relief works regulated at HERD. The motivation and the dedication was exemplary.

Quake-Shake and Relief Camp at HERD

The training hall at HERD has been filled with the sacks of rice, beaten rice, instant noodles, salt and oil, and yes, of course, many helping hands – volunteers and staff. Some of the strong men at HERD, Ashit B.K., Santosh Giri, and Prabin Shrestha, have been extremely busy with purchasing the relief materials. Even purchasing the materials wasn’t easy when they themselves had to visit go-downs and carry those heavy-weights, as all the workers had fled from the capital. Once the purchasing team got back to the office, unloading the goods off demanded more helping hands, from the Executive Director to the security staff.

The passage on the ground floor has turned into a HERD’s secretariat office for the earthquake relief operation —the white board with plans scribbled on, the printer rolling, and the Earthquake Media Monitoring Team busy gathering earthquake related information from various online media publications — preparing for the next day’s relief mission at Thuladurlung, Lalitpur. Staff members were all actively engaged in packaging the relief items, including medicines, and emergency reproductive health kits. Counting of the packets went on aiming for a number of the affected families.

HERD staff and volunteers packing the relief materials at the training hall

In Preparation for Thuladurlung

Two days before we set off for Thuladurlung, Deepak Joshi and I visited the District Administration Office (DAO), Lalitpur to get information of the relief situation in the district. They recommended us to conduct the relief mission at Thuladurlung, where very limited relief has reached. Necessary information, including the contact number of the Secretary of the VDC was noted down.

Up Goes the Rahat Samagri into the Trucks; We Lay Down our Backs

Loading of the relief items into two trucks went till 11 PM on the night of 6 May. Ropes were tied across the piles of relief packages. We’re sweating enough to drench our clothes. I presume, Santosh and I got our muscles ripped off. Our hands still hurt bad! But worth it to ascertain that nothing falls off the truck the next day on the rough and bumpy 70 km road from Thapathali to all the way to Thuladurlung. Finally, we deserved dinner; it was delicious after the day’s hard work. And we (Ashit, Santosh, Bharat, and I) spent the night at the office within the cracked walls of the ‘sick room’. My mom wasn’t happy that I was spending another night in the office (she was very terrified after the earthquake and afraid to sleep alone!). But I reckon she understood that there are lots of people who need help, and that I wasn’t stopping from doing what I can.

The Journey Begins; Many Miles to Measure

The very next morning as early as 5, I had to get home to pick up my camera. By the time I got back to the office, the team was ready to set off for the journey. The caravan included two trucks full of rahat samagri (relief materials), two cars, and a troop of 17 people. Deepak and I got the only front seats in one of the trucks. We hadn’t taken our breakfast and kept on measuring the miles, and imagining how Thuladurlung would look like in real. It was my first time travel via Lele, and I was stunned by its beauty as we passed across it up in to the hills. It was breathtaking!

Empty Belly Still Can Do Much!

Gradually, starting within a less than an hour we set off, we’re starting to feel our empty belly rumble. Growling stomach can’t do much, but the destination was still far flung, and we (I, Deepak, and the truck driver) were hanging tight until, we’re just about an hour away from Thuladurlung, we found Chameli didi’s a small pasal-like hut, where we had some cooked Wai-Wai (noodles) with pumpkin vines; no doubt it was savouring. Chameli didi was generous enough to offer us homemade yogurt too.  It revived the worn-out young driver, and all of us.

Chameli didi cooking Wai-Wai with pumpkin vines

Treacherous Road Chills Up the Spine; thus needed to Hang on Tight!

Treacherous road it was, winding and rambling. Despite being born and raised in the Capital, never had been to the far-flung corners of Lalitpur, and never had pictured in my mind how remote and hard-to-access those nooks of the district are (though I’ve heard/read quite often in media). Rocky road was bumping the trucks, and we couldn’t stop worrying whether the rahat samagri will fall off. I still had my doubts whether the ropes we tied the night before were perfectly knotted. Adversaries invited by that road, I suppose, can question one’s ability and confidence, and chills up the spine. As hoped, the rahat samagri were safe; we’re safe!

One of the two trucks carrying relief materials on the way to Thula Durlung

Rahat Samagri Reaches the Unreached

It was already half past one when we distributed the rahat. Many people had already assembled; their patience despite the dire need was exemplary. It doesn’t mean that rahat we took along were a lot, but it flicked smiles in people’s faces. Children were delighted. Elderly people were blessing us saying ‘jay hos’ (Let Victory be your!).The local relief distribution networks from all the 9 wards from the VDC were handed over the rahat which they distributed to the earthquake stricken families. 

A Thurladurlung girl with relief material provided by HERD

Broken Health Centre Functions

The great Quake had dismantled the Sub-health Post in Thuladurlung. It possesses big risk to run the basic health services in its vicinity. It is also the birthing centre and had become functionless. The day before there was a delivery case which was performed on the ground outside. The emergency tent provided by the Unicef Nepal was set up with the support of the Nepal Army, local residents, and the HERD Staff. The delivery kit and the medical supports were handed over to the In-charge. It was hoped that at least the primary health care services would relieve many people in need.

Messiah of Love, Hope, and Care

Innocent eyes of the children and blessing eyes of the elderly speak a lot. They speak the words heart hear and tell us the untold stories. The feelings they embark with the acceptance of our helping hands mean a lot to us. What more one can ask for but smile in the faces of the children and the blessings of the elderly? Hope rebuilding is the noble thing to do and humility is the essence. The HERD team armored with passion and shielded with commitment received bountiful love and greetings of the people. 

A woman smiles while she waits to receive the relief materials at Thuladurlung 

Returning Back

It was already 4 PM when we headed-out from Thuladurlung, and had another 5 hours on that crabby road. Empty trucks bounce much harder than when they are filled. Beside the driver, Deepak and I were zippy. It wasn’t any jumping jacks, but we’re thrown here and there, sliding down and pulling up, and again sliding further down in the front seat ‘lovers seat’ of the truck. We would ask the driver to slow down, but he would hardly listen. I guess he’s then started to enjoy those bumps, and couldn’t wait to get home to his beloved. It was already 9 in the evening when we reached back to the office. We all had a very tiring day. Despite the tiring journey, we were glad that we’re able to reach Thuladurlung and successful complete the relief mission. 

Four of us (Bharat, Santosh, Govinda and I) spent the night at the office enclosed in the same cracked walls of the ‘sick room’. The uncertainty prevailed that night as before, but didn’t feel any aftershocks. We all deserved the ‘sound’ sleep.

Photos and Text: Uden Maharjan

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