“Over 900 Die in Nepal Earthquake.”
It’s Saturday. I check headlines periodically on the phone while I’m waiting in a grocery store line or to stave off incipient insanity, provoked by hold music.
Awful earthquake in Nepal, the worst in 80 years. I check the news again, a bit later
“Over 1,000 Killed in Nepal.”
Another couple of hours and the number is 2,000.
I dreaded app button, while being drawn to it, as if in some weird way clicking on the New York Times site is causing more people to die. As I type these words the official number is “over 4,000” and will go probably go higher, possibly much higher.
There are whole villages wiped out, villages that are days walking from other villages so inaccessible they might as well be on Mars. From one village to the next there might be ten or more landslides blocking the footpaths, and even helicopters can’t get in. Many people in such remote locations are so invisible they don’t even have citizenship cards. In one village 70 people survived only because they were attending a wedding. Their homes and all buildings were destroyed.
I’ve been to Nepal twice, in a charitable capacity. These are not headlines, or just horrifying photos to me. They are lovely people, just like people I know here, who try to do the best for their families with what they have been given. Their children walk to school, often many miles. Everyone works hard. Food is problem. Education is a problem. Most everything….except dust and hardship and stunning scenery…is in short supply.
I have worked with Room to Read for ten years now. The organization started in fact as Books for Nepal, and so has a great deal of experience there. When I work to raise money for them, I’m always surprised—though I shouldn’t be any longer—when people say, “We need to fix our problems at home before we help people far away.”
But, for me, our neighbors are our neighbors wherever they live. Pain is pain. Destruction is destruction. I try to help when there are local problems, and I try to help when there are global problems. I can volunteer locally, but it’s much harder to physically go so far away. Money can go so much farther in other countries. Room to Read—which recently learned its own staff is safe, though staying in cars because of aftershocks, and searching for missing family members—has received a matching grant for school rebuilding, and has just started The Nepal Fund, as flexible way to coordinate rebuilding efforts once it is clear the areas of most greatest need.
Too many pictures of destruction lately, so the ones here are of happy children I played games with in 2010, on Room to Read’s tenth anniversary.