Nepal is half a world away, nestled between India and China. However, the earthquake which devastated the lovely country hit very near and dear to some Newton residents and workers.
The 7.8 quake hit Saturday, April 24, with more than 50 aftershocks in the week following. It is the most severe earthquake in the country for the since 1934.
American Red Cross worker Shannon Wedge said an estimated 7,000 people have died, with some 15,000 injured and one third of the county's population affected. Wedge said water, food, shelter, sanitation and medical care are needed for over 3.5 million people. Many in remote mountain villages have still not been reached by emergency workers.
The Wichita Nepalese Community has grown more active since the earthquake. Bishal Bista and others organized a candlelight vigil Sunday, May 3 at Wichita State University to raise funds for earthquake victims and draw people together in support.
Bista came from Nepal in 2006 to attend college in Wichita. International Students, Inc. paired him with a Newton host family. Bista said he was terrified for his two sisters and 92-year-old grandmother still in Nepal. It took about eight hours to reach them. “It felt like days and months,” said Bista. With the aftershocks making their cracked home dangerous, his family lived outside in the rain for several days.
Bista is now studying to be a Physician's Assistant at WSU. Many members of his large class came to the candlelight vigil to show their support. As he heads into finals, Bista said the amount of chaos in his country is heartbreaking.
People suffering loses from this disaster live and work in our own neighborhood. Saroj Satyal is a teller at the Citizens State Bank and lost his 94-year-old great-grandma to the quake as she visited family in the city of Bhaktapur.
Satyal was sleeping when he got the call about earthquake.
“When the phone rings at night you immediately think something is wrong,” he said.
Satyal was relieved to hear the rest of his family were ok.
Ram works at Norcraft and at Applebees in Newton. He said it “felt really good” to find the support of other Nepalese at the WSU event, to realize he is not going though this alone.
Jill Moore, from Newton, also attended the vigil to show her support to her Nepali friends.
Anita is another Nepali who attended the vigil. A nurse, she was awakened in the early morning by her brother with news of the quake. It took her four frightening hours to reach her parents, who live outside the city of Kathmandu. They are fine, as they lived in an earthquake-proof house.
Yet Anita is very concerned for their well-being with shortages of food and water and possible looters. She realizes how dire the situation is, as her cousins tell her the smell of decaying corpses is beginning to fill the city.
Anita is worried going back and seeing changes to the unique beauty of Nepal, which ranges from jungles to arctic mountains. Many ancient, historic sites have been destroyed as well.
Anita and others expressed feelings of guilt at not being present for their family and country, wishing they could go back and wanting their countrymen to know that they have not left them.
Bista and the Wichita Nepalese Community are dedicated to long-term recovery and said the candlelight vigil would be the first of many events. They sold 200 #HelpNepal t-shirts. More information on donating can be found on their Facebook page.
Bista said the Non Resident Nepali Association is bringing together Nepalese from all over the world, who are raising to the occasion of their country's need.
“My heart is still back home with my Nepali brothers and sisters,” Bista said.“We've got to help out people.”
Other associations are helping, including the Wichita Asian Festival and The Wichita Asian Association, who are holding a benefit concert at Wichita East High School on May 16th.