The ‘acts of kindness’ that helped Nepalese communities survive the quake
A year on from the two devastating earthquakes that claimed the lives of almost 9,000 people, new portraits by photographer Gideon Mendel, show how small ‘acts of kindness’ helped stranded Nepalese families survive.
Mendel’s work is accompanied by research from Christian Aid revealing that nearly 95* per cent of people surveyed in Gorkha and Dhading said they’d helped and supported neighbours after the earthquake.
Laxmi Gurung, 30, cooked the food she’d rescued from her small hotel and distributed it to neighbours in need.
‘When people were going through such a miserable time, I did not think twice about giving food. Whatever I cooked, I distributed in a small quantity for all.’
Chandra Ghale, a 32-year-old construction worker from Baluwa, Gorkha, was part of an volunteer search and rescue team set up after the earthquake.
‘We rescued several people buried in the rubble, removed dead bodies and we also looked for injured people and provided medical assistance.’
He also helped organise the community to clear roads, set up temporary shelter and distribute relief when it arrived.
‘My family decided to use the food from the shop to feed everyone — noodles, rice, oil, potatoes, onions, eggs and pulses. There was no scarcity of food. By day four we were feeding around 72 people.’ Indra Kumari, 23, Baluwa in Gorkha.
Lokbahadur Magar was part of a group-effort to organise his community in the aftermath of the earthquake.
‘Some people started to clear the dead bodies and prepare them for burial; others cleared the rubble in search of food. I helped to treat the injured.
‘We all cooked, ate and lived together. It took about three days before help arrived.’
Primary school teacher Dhan Kumari Magar, 44, helped to rescue a mother and child (pictured right) when they became trapped under the rubble of their house. She also looked after injured patients.
‘I boiled water and helped clean their wounds. There were no medical supplies and we had to use old clothes as bandages.’
Twenty-year-old Manoj Rana, a chef, was in Kathmandu when the earthquake struck. He knew he had to return home to the small rural village where he grew up in Gorkha.
‘ I helped to set up a community kitchen. For the first few days we only had enough food for one meal a day. We were very happy when the relief started to arrive.’
Sagar Tamang’s village was completely destroyed by the earthquake. He was part of a small committee that set up a temporary camp on the outskirts of Dhading. He helped build toilets and lobbied for drinking water.
‘Local people also provided us with tarpaulins and bed clothes. A visitor to the area gave us tents. After that we could sleep better.’
Bal and Phul Sunar, a Dalit couple considered to be ‘outcastes’ by society and forced to live on the outskirts of town, unexpectedly received food and shelter materials from two upper caste families in nearby communities.
‘[They] know we are very poor and have no income. It was a big support at the time.’
Seventeen-year-old Rakesh Lamicchane and his friends helped to rescue an 11-year-old boy, pictured left, when he was knocked unconscious and buried under the rubble of a small building.
The group of school friends also set up public awareness training in their village to help teach others how to respond to future disasters.
Nearly 95* per cent of people surveyed by Christian Aid said they’d helped and supported neighbours after the earthquake.
Experiences like these were echoed across disaster-hit communities in Nepal — one of the world’s poorest countries. Christian Aid’s findings, based on a survey of nearly 200 people, show how resilient and self-reliant communities can be in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.
Next month, at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Christian Aid will call for a global commitment to help vulnerable communities better prepare for future emergencies, so they can respond more effectively before aid arrives.
For more information about the survey and Christian Aid’s new multimedia project, Nepal Aftershocks: the people’s truth about aid, visit: www.christianaid.org.uk/nepal-aftershocks