Walking Near the Epicenter: #NepalEarthquake

Our voice in the field is Save the Children's Senior Director for Humanitarian Operations Gary Shaye.  

Gary Shaye_81905The news of yesterday’s earthquake in Nepal was extremely personal for me, especially when I saw that its epicenter was in the very area through which I had walked so many times during my seven years there with Save the Children.  

My Work in Rural Nepal

Several years ago, I was assigned to initiate Save the Children’s country program in Nepal’s Gorkha District, midway between Kathmandu and Pokhara. Save the Children’s programs at that time were focused in Gorkha, in an area of small, rural villages, north of the main road. From that road, our team spent three to six hours walking to the villages where we worked. Later, our work expanded to even more distant parts of Gorkha, reaching populations who lived as far as four to six days’ walk from the nearest road. Over the years, we worked in hundreds of remote, rural communities and with many thousands of Nepal’s children and families.

What News of Rural Children

I am deeply troubled and saddened by the loss of life and the horrific devastation in Nepal’s densely populated urban areas of Kathmandu and the neighboring cities of Patan and Bhaktapur, as we’ve all seen in the news. However, because the communities nearest the epicenter are so remote, with roads often blocked and access so challenging, news from rural areas is slow in coming. I have walked those roads and worked closely with those people, so I am anxious to know how they are. I worry that the simple mud and brick homes, as well as the many schools Save the Children helped villagers construct, may not have survived the quake. Mostly, I worry for the lives of those children and families.

15-NP-10_162441Children in Crisis

I have worked for Save the Children now for nearly 40 years, half that time spent in the field, including as Country Director in Haiti, after the devastating earthquake of 2010. So I know what Nepal’s children and families are likely facing now. Children in crisis are always among the most vulnerable – and they often suffer more. There is an overwhelming sense of loss – loss of home, loss of family members and friends, loss of the safety and structure of school. Every aspect of children’s daily routines disrupted. Children may be injured. They may be separated and alone. In an instant, a child’s life is turned upside down.

We Must Help Them Now

We must provide immediate aid to Nepal’s suffering children and their families, both in its urban areas and its remote, rural communities. And we must help them now, because we are indeed in a race against the onset of the monsoon rains, as close to six or seven weeks away, which will only increase our challenges.

Far Away, But Close to My Heart

When one travels by foot, scores of times, over the same roads and across trails, you really get to know and love a country and, most importantly, its people. I learned a lot on my journeys in Nepal.

So I am going to do whatever is possible now to let everyone know about the remarkable and resilient people of Nepal – especially those who live in areas that are remote in distance, but for me, so very close to my heart.

How You Can Help 

Please give generously to the Nepal Earthquake Children’s Relief Fund to support Save the Children's responses to ongoing and urgent needs as a result of the earthquake.