We have arrived in Nepal with the primary purpose of reviewing our projects here, but also keen to understand the effects of the earthquake.
Like most of us in the west, our expectations have been set low by the media frenzy that accompanied the earthquake at the time, but little has been reported since. We have been surprised therefore that, (on the first day’s appraisal at least), there appears to be large areas of Kathmandu largely unaffected, and some visible signs of building and restoration taking place where buildings have been cleared. The amount of canvas tents, however, are a reminder that despite the clearance of rubble many families are still struggling to repair the damage to their lives.
More striking are the massive queues for petrol; miles and miles long at every gas station, as politically motivated trade embargoes from India have left it severely limited. There are also shortages of gas (used for domestic cooking), foodstuffs and even medical supplies, together with a widespread lack of electricity. It seems a cruel twist at this present time.
A visit to Bhaktapur in the afternoon showed a much higher level of damage inflicted on the historic temples and homes of this ancient city. Nevertheless the place has not lost its charm, nor have the Nepali people lost their wonderful hospitality. It is still an intriguing place to be and one deserving our support rather than being avoided by many tourists, as currently seems to be the case.
And so to a very special moment this afternoon, when we accompanied one of our physiotherapy volunteers on a house visit to a young girl called Sulochana, who suffers from cerebral palsy. Sulochana was a student of the Community Based Rehabilitation centre we work with, which provides support and education to children with severe physical and mental disabilities, with a view to enabling them to enter mainstream education and become part of society.
Sulochana had achieved this and, despite every disadvantage in life, was proving herself to be an intelligent and inspiring young adult. Writing any word requires extreme effort from Sulochana, so as I sat and read a whole essay from her, articulating the challenges of being disabled in Nepal and her own personal aspirations. I could only imagine the difficulty she had overcome in doing so. And the words were remarkable. So much so that I want to publish some of them.
“All the fingers of a hand are not equal. Like that, I know different people have different attitudes and thinking. I hate the people that think all people are not the same and discriminate against the people with lessor ability. There are also good people who think all people are equal and don’t show bias in terms of gender or physical abilities”.
And up four steep flights of stairs, in a small one-room apartment in Bhaktapur, I hope Sulochana is reading her words, published to the world on the internet…..once the electricity comes on.