A love letter to Nepal

By Crislyn Felisilda, World Vision Field Communicator, Nepal

I’d planned to visit Nepal as a backpacker for ages. The majestic snowy peaks of the Himalayas, the country’s cultural diversity and the festivals seemed to call to me. But when the earth powerfully shook Nepal three months ago, those plans were shaken too.

I never expected that I would reach the country as part of a humanitarian response, but in June I was deployed to support our ongoing relief work as part of the communications team.

Upon my arrival in Kathmandu, the evidence of destruction was very raw - buildings made from bricks had collapsed. Random tents were set up in open spaces. Historical sites in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur were torn down.

My trips to the field here have been unlike those in my home in the Philippines.

Here in Nepal, it is a huge challenge to reach the villages. On average it takes six hours to reach one district. Since Nepal is filled with giant hills, you have no choice but to pass through the narrow, rough roads on your way to distribute help and supplies. It’s scary, but there’s no other way to go.

In districts like Sindhuli, you climb steep mountains and cross rivers to reach the villages. As you trek, local guides remind you to be cautious of leopards, snakes, or tigers - they can attack at anytime. And they don't only prey on the visitors; residents and children fear these creatures too, especially now that they are more vulnerable than ever and living in tents.

What’s worse, monsoon season has now arrived.

The tremors scarred the entire region with landslides. The landslides washed away roads and exposed the mountains’ fresh earth. Communities that were once hard to reach have now become nearly impossible to access. The freshly washed earth means mountain villages are more vulnerable to landslides.

Most of the time, as I wander around, I feel torn between the scenes of destruction and the beauty of the place.

Nepal, with its 28 million people, remains majestic and beautiful even after the devastation. At the distribution sites, women come chattering with colourful woven dresses, bangles, and traditional caps.

Families walk many miles to the distribution sites, often tugging along a donkey or mule to carry their doko (wooden basket), which will carry our relief supplies back through the winding hills to their home.

Rural communities normally dwell on the edge of the hills - and it’s unbelievable that these people managed to survive the earthquake and aftershocks that so damaged the towns and cities in the lowlands. For me, their survival and continued determination are a daily miracle.

We’ve been working in this country for more than 15 years expanding access to water and sanitation, improving livelihoods, prioritising women's welfare and ensuring children’s protection and participation.

Our response team is now doing its best to keep children and families safe from harm and helping them recover in the aftermath of the earthquake.

After three months we’ve managed to reach more than 132,000 survivors with relief items.

We’ve provided things like blankets, temporary shelter materials, water, sanitation and hygiene materials and food.

Immediately after the earthquake we set up 31 Child Friendly Spaces, where we helped more than 4,000 children recover from the fear and emotional impact of living through the earthquake.

There’s so much that’s been done but there’s more work to do in coming months.

Despite the challenges, we continue to be grateful for the outpouring of support from donors who enable us to give survivors what they need to rebuild and recover.

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, but its people have remained inspiringly upbeat despite bearing the brunt of the disaster.

I’m happy to see children back at school as things slowly return to some semblance of normal.

Often, there are language barriers but looking into the eyes of the survivors speaks volumes about their strength and resiliency.

In my field visits, I witness kindness, warmth, and hospitality. Everybody greeted me warmly with a 'Namaste.'

The Nepalis have made me feel that I’m not different. People that I spoke with treated me like family.

Some communities gave me flower garlands when they learned I was a visitor.

I’ve been on so many adventures in my life but Nepal has outdone all of them.

Before I go, I hope to learn more about the survivors' joys, their untold secrets and their aspirations. I’m thankful to hear how resilient survivors have been in coping with the challenges they’re facing.

I know our response work has made a difference, and I hope I've touched their lives too; the people of Nepal have certainly touched mine.

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