Several years ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Nepal to visit my sister who was working there as a Peace Corps Volunteer. As a once-in-a-lifetime trip, my positive memories of the people and places of Nepal remain vivid to this day, and the recent tragedy of the massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake that overwhelmed this small country has brought many of those recollections flooding back.
As I see the photos of a devastated country and hear reports of more than 7,000 killed and many more thousands injured, I am reminded of the charm, the adventure and the beauty of the country.
The goats on the runway of the tiny airport. The small statured people with huge smiles and warm welcomes into their one-room homes for tea. The simple questions asked of us about our birth order and the well-being of our family members, rather than interest in our jobs or life goals. The small, remote villages perched on high mountains, many accessible only by foot.
The simple, primitive life for which all were grateful and respectful. Living off the land in natural and creative ways, working hard and enjoying each other’s company. The stunningly beautiful environment and the ease with which the Nepalese maneuvered so gracefully up and down the mountains, often barefoot, with heavy loads upon their heads and backs, and always friendly.
And now, many of the things which added to the magical quality of this country are causing considerable interference in post-disaster response. Charming primitiveness turns to downright devastation and emergency-level concern as infrastructure is crumbling and basic needs aren’t being met.
The Nepalese are well-accustomed to doing without so many of the modern conveniences, yet now they have even less. The basics of the one village water spout or the one fireplace for cooking has Iikely come crumbling down, leaving many in dangerously precarious situations. Transportation limitations are disrupting the speed and efficiency with which supplies can be brought into the country and distributed among its citizens. It can only be imagined how the respect and reverence for their earth is being transformed.
This earthquake and the aftermath seem to be a catastrophe whose enormity is yet to be fully realized.
Hearing about this tragedy can be very distressing for ourselves and our loved ones, but education and tips on coping can be helpful. “Managing your distress about the earthquake from afar” offers tips on how to cope while miles away.
Other resources for general information on emotional reactions after a disaster.
- Recovering Emotionally from Disaster from the American Psychological Association
- Mental Health Effects following Disaster: Risk and Resilience Factors from the National Center for PTSD
- Recovery After an Earthquake, from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, provides caregivers some ways to talk with children about such traumatic events.
One meaningful way to process distressing feelings and thoughts can be to find a way to help, and the magnitude of this disaster naturally will require considerable financial support. There are several reputable relief organizations that are currently collecting donations to help in the Nepal disaster in particular:
- Nepal Red Cross is leading the response with support from the larger international Red Cross community.
- The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) has a list of non-governmental organizations that have issued appeals for donations.
USAID is also keeping an updated site of information about the current relief efforts, assistance for US Citizens in Nepal and additional ways to help with rebuilding.
The Nepal Earthquakes are expected to involve a long-term recovery process, but it is hoped that the people and the country will be able to tap into their resiliency.
There are many factors that assist with more favorable outcomes after a disaster. Some of the important elements naturally include having practical provisions like food, housing, medical care and adequate financial resources to rebuild.
Other significant factors are more abstract in nature yet still are a critical piece of facilitating positive outcomes: maintaining a sense of optimism, return to routine, social connections, and a belief that things will work out because there are outside sources acting benevolently.
The people of Nepal seem to have strong spirits, an interest in connecting relationships, ingenuity in making do with so little, but they are hurting.
In our empathy for the many grieving citizens in this beautiful country, we must continue to recognize strengths as well as suffering. By holding both compassion and hopefulness, and by providing both practical and psychological support, it is hoped that we may be able to help the brave Nepalese people eventually shift from suffering to resilience, from surviving to thriving.
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