In late spring 2015 two earthquakes struck the Himalaya Mountains just north of Kathmandu in Nepal. Both earthquakes were over 7 on the Richter scale. The destruction left behind crippled the entire region, wiping whole villages off of the mountain sides. Roads and trails throughout the region were rendered impassable by landslides. The situation was truly dire.
Mission Aviation Fellowship has a department that is specifically intended to respond to major disasters like this. Within days of the first earthquake, MAF sent a small team to determine if there was a need for our skills as an organization or transportation or communications assistance.
A need was found, and MAF put out a call for volunteers, staff members who were willing and available to travel to Nepal for a rotation to help with the relief efforts.
I was sitting in the breakroom at the MAF headquarters hanger for the morning meeting when that need was expressed. I immediately felt an excitement to be able to go and help in any way I could with the relief work that was just beginning. A team was selected, and sent out, and I was still waiting in the hanger. I didn’t think I was going to get a chance to help. Then the second quake hit, and the first team was getting ready to change out. I was approached about going to Nepal to help, and I eagerly accepted.
MAF had discovered that there were numerous smaller organizations ready and eager to be of assistance in the mountain villages, but the waiting list for rides on the UN helicopters was weeks long. MAF contracted with a helicopter operator in Kathmandu that usually flew for tourists and trekkers to commit two helicopters seven days a week to flying for these organizations. With help from UKAID and DFID, and funds that MAF had raised, these smaller groups were able to fly for a significant discount to give aid to needy villages. Medical care, emergency food stuffs, water filtration kits, and temporary shelters were getting flown into the mountains.
I didn’t leave for Nepal until June 15th, but I was there for a month. My primary job was to meet passengers and cargo at the domestic terminal in Kathmandu. I helped carry hundreds of bags of rice, water filters, and tarpaulin through that terminal, and became acquainted with medical teams and others by first name over the weeks I was there.
It’s hard to describe the destruction I could see in Kathmandu from one day to the next, it was even harder yet to explain the way things were in the villages. What struck me the most was the way that the Nepali people were bonding together to rebuild. At one Buddhist temple complex, a number of the shrines had collapsed. A huge crowd had gathered and they had formed a line to pass debris long the line and away. It was like random men, women, young and old, had just stepped into line to help clear away the mess. Even in the villages, relief supplies were not stolen or hoarded, but gathered in one place to assist in distributing evenly throughout the entire area, not just where the helicopter landed.
It’s been a few months, since I came back. I still worry though, about those villages I got to visit, and all the others that I helped, but never saw personally. What will happen when winter comes? Will they be warm? Will they have food and adequate shelter?
Nepal is a beautiful land. I loved being there, and being able to help provide relief care to the villages throughout the region. It was a great honor. But Nepal’s recovery is far from over. Pray for Nepal. And keep supporting groups that are still there giving aid. The need is not over.