May 12th 2015: The following is a personal account of the moments the latest earthquake hit Nepal as witnessed by Program Director and co-founder Sangeeta Shrestha. It was written in the street in the middle of the night.
We are having our regular Skype meeting with Nina and Christine, but Upuli is still not online. Nina is asking about the 300 tents that we need to support our affected area in Lamjung. I am informing how we have sent request letter to the CDO. They are having a meeting with the political parties and hopefully we will get the support that we need. Upuli is still not online and we are still discussing on the situation of Nepal. Then, I see Upuli coming online and try to welcome her to the meeting when all of a sudden, I hear a big sound. The house starts shaking violently. I leave everything, as it is, call all the team members and run downstairs. The staircase swings viciously. We cannot even stand on our feet. Everybody starts to scream and the situation becomes awful. I see the hopeless and fearful faces of my WAWCAS staff members as we run down the stairs. Inside, I am very scared but I did not let it show on my face. My hopes are still up and I try to calm myself and ask the staff members to go down slowly. Sirish, Amit, Chandika and I are going down together. Then this thought comes to my mind. The whole team will get buried. At the moment, my mind completely blacked out. Finally, we also reach the ground where I see Shova and Surya, our care takers for the Childrens Home, the children and the other two new WAWCAS staff present there. But, Binita and Sarika are missing.
I scream their names. Then Chandika runs inside to look for Sarika and Binita. They come down together. I feel relieved. They had actually thought that Chandika was inside the restroom so they were waiting for her. This shows the supportiveness and care between all the team members. I can see Sarika crying. Every other staff members try to convince her that everything is going to be all right. She was very worried about her son and everyone was trying to call his or her family. We can still see the house shaking. I also see people from all the other houses there and the fear in their faces. I then realize that I have left my phone in the building. Then Sirish receives a phone call. It is Nina from Denmark. When on the phone, she says that the Skype was on and that she could hear the horrible noise of the house shaking and us screaming. She also says that she could hear my phone ringing. At that point, she thought that we all got buried inside. It was at that point that she contacted Sirish. In the meantime, the other WAWCAS team members get connected to their family. Luckily, all of their family members are safe. I try to contact my husband Narayan from Binita’s and Sarika’s phone but could not get through. That particular moment was very painful. Chandika then runs upstairs to fetch my phone despite me screaming no to go. The shakings have not stopped yet and we stand there holding each other closely. My brain cannot decide what to do next. The shakings subsides and we could finally think properly. Sirish and Amit then drop off Chandika and Binita on mottorbikes to their place and us later on.
I am so proud of my WAWCAS team and I have a partner like Nina. She is following every moment. Physically, we may have been miles apart, but mentally, we are very close to each other. We have solidarity and strength together. I am thankful to them and am looking forward to working with them for many more years.
Sangeeta Shrestha, Program Director and cofounder of WAWCAS