An Overwhelming Odyssey: A Quake Relief Memoir

Events bring about experiences. Sudeep Uprety - Research Uptake and Communicaions Officer at HERD shares his experiences being a part of relief distribution campaign.

I could not sleep well as I just kept waking up at 3, 4 and 4:30 in the wee hours of the morning of June 16, the D-Day to go for another relief materials distribution for the earthquake affected to Gairibisauna Deupur VDC of Kavre district on the way to Melamchi. I reached HERD office at 6 – the scheduled time for us to move. After managing all the distribution materials, a small team of 8 members set off for the odyssey. We had a pick-up truck, which we had named as “TUCSON” (borrowing the name from Hyundai TUCSON SUV) as the vehicle was used extensively for our relief distribution campaigns; and another vehicle Scorpio for us. Our ever energetic team member, Sudesh volunteered to be with the ‘TUCSON’ pickup along with the driver.

Our 'TUCSON' - loaded with relief materials ready to head towards the destination

We were taking a ‘chill pill’ with Chetana ma’am (Ms. Chetana Thapa, coordinator for the day’s relief campaign) sitting in the front seat playing some rocking music. As we reached Jagate (Bhaktapur) and saw some damaged chimneys, we started discussing about the destruction and the aftermath of earthquake. We stopped by Banepa to buy some dry snacks as Chetana ma’am informed us that the community people at Gairibisauna Deupur are waiting for us as during the day, they need to go to their maize fields to work.

So, without any further delay, we reached our destination at around 9 am. On the way, we saw contrasting images of beautiful scenes of the greenery – the landscape and the corn field while on the other, complete destruction of the houses. We had initially coordinated with the VDC officials and one of the community leaders, designated as Relief Coordinator was waiting for us. The community people had already gathered in anticipation and hope for sustained survival – even only for a few days. Ashit, our ‘relief man’ (as he has been involved in all the relief campaigns – managing all the relief items and distributing them) and our very own dactor saab (medical doctor) Dr. Manoj started distributing the packets as the names were called out by the Relief Coordinator. Their job was commendable as literally sweat was raining down from their bodies in the scorching heat.

Dactor saab, Manoj sweating it out in the scorching heat


It was heartening to see smiles of the needy after distributing relief materials to about 250 households. We interacted with the community people about the effect of the earthquake; the damages to their family and property and the way they are managing this devastating disaster. My colleagues – Kritagya and Pragya also collected similar stories of sorrow visiting nearby neighbourhoods. I was looking for a case study and the locals informed that there is a pregnant woman who has become ‘handicapped’ as she was trapped in the earthquake rubble of her house. Two locals helped me to take her to her home. For a city dweller, who does not walk up and down the hill and to add to my leg problem, it was an ‘uphill’ task. I somehow managed to reach the woman’s house. Her condition was pitiful. After interacting with her and her family members about her problems, I stepped down the hill with a heavy heart and a wishful thought if I could do anything for her.

Santoshi Sarki, 27 in her 7th month of pregnancy is left bed-ridden with injured limbs after being trapped in the earthquake rubble

Ms. Chetana Thapa after distributing the relief materials expressed her immense pride as a woman being able to play a part in helping other  women at this time of dire need.

After staying at the community for 4 hours, we decided to return back. We were hungry by then and stopped by Dhulikhel Chhapro.(a famous stop-by eatery at Dhulikhel) for our lunch. It was a feast – on all accounts with delicious meal. The place had its own story. It was also destroyed by the earthquake and was rebuilt. With our stomachs full, we headed back to our office. Our day got a perfect end when Chetana ma’am offered us ice-creams.

It was an eventful day on all accounts. There is nothing gratifying in this world than seeing smiling faces after doing some noble work.

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