July 10, 2015 — Two months after a devastating earthquake hit Nepal, and just over a month after a major aftershock, the Jesuits continue their relief efforts in the country’s rural communities.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25 and the 7.3-magnitude aftershock caused catastrophic damage: nearly 9,000 people were killed and over 22,000 were injured. "People were terrified and totally destabilized,” said Jesuit Father Louis Prakash, director of programs at the Nepal Jesuit Social Institute in Kathmandu. Now that initial relief efforts have stabilized communities, the focus is on rebuilding.
For Nepalese subsistence farmers, whose crops are their only source of food, the main priority has been repairing damaged fields, planting when possible and nurturing surviving livestock. Their homes, however, won’t be rebuilt until October, after the monsoon rains.
“The challenge is to build [temporary] shelters and see that there is enough food on hand,” explained Canadian Jesuit Father William Robins, socius to the Jesuits’ regional superior of Nepal.
To meet this need, the Jesuits in Nepal have set up the Nepal Jesuit Social Institute (NJSI), which sends teams into rural, hard-to-reach communities with medical aid, relief materials and rebuilding assistance. In one village, Ranchok, a team spent five days attending to medical needs, distributing tents for the local high schools, and holding a preliminary planning meeting with the villagers to address rebuilding. In another village, NJSI distributed corn seed to replenish crop growth.
Other efforts have been focused on restarting normal daily activities. “Most schools have collapsed, so we help build temporary classrooms and get the students settled down to studies again,” said Fr. Robins. “The challenge the Jesuits can best meet is in education, helping to get schools running well.” NJSI teams brought backpacks, paper, pencils, notebooks and other supplies to several rural villages, allowing many children to settle back into a routine.
Together with the United Nations and many other aid organizations, the Jesuits and Nepalese are beginning to rebuild the broken villages. "The joint effort of solidarity between institutions, international agencies and civil societies is bearing the fruit of hope," Fr. Prakash said. And of his Nepalese friends and neighbors, Fr. Robins added, “They deal with sorrow or hurt and move on, looking ahead.”
Editor's Note: The people of Nepal need your help. If you're in Canada, please visit the Canadian Jesuits International website to donate to relief efforts. In the U.S., please visit the Midwest Jesuits' Nepal Earthquake Relief page to help.