And then we left Kathmandu and ventured into the remote villages….
Village after village was annihilated. 90-100% destruction was the normal. Mountain top villages were vaporized, and valley bottom towns were reduced to rubble. I will not describe the sights and smells experienced. It was evident that this event will affect generations of Nepali people.
And then the second major Earthquake occurred…
I was in a meeting at the Canadian Military DART Base when the earth bean to tremble. We were in the valley bottom and could hear trees topple, and landslides emerged through the foliage. Then looking off in the distance we witnessed plumes of dust from multiple locations. These plumes were hilltop villages far off in the distance that were literally being shaken off of the mountain.
Fast forward almost a year…
I arrived in Kathmandu and found some minor progress. Many of the destroyed buildings in the city were removed, yet not rebuilt. There is still a legitimate fear of further quakes. Most experts agree that the frequent seismic activity will continue for years. Many high rise apartment buildings have been abandoned. Some because of damage and some because of the fear another pending catastrophic event. Yesterday our local partner Bandita and I ventured out to Sindhapaulchok, a district that was hard hit and fairly remote. We toured the clinic location and were greeted by the smiles and “Namaste’s” of hundreds of school children. Many of these children were orphaned by the events of last year. Yet the smiles would never elude to the problems of the past year. I was informed that many new borns did not survive the cold winter due to lack of shelter. The school where we will host our first clinic day was reduced to broke bricks. This school was a pillar of the community serving 600 pupils. Now a hastily erected tin structure stands in its place. The TWECS team needs to be in this community. The majority of villagers could not have afforded the cost to see an optometrist, and most certainly could not purchase a pair of glasses. Of the fortunate few who owned glasses, many lost them in the devastation of April 2015. Many lives will be changed this Friday when the TWECS Team restores the vision and livelihoods of the people in Sindhapaulchok. And the people of the 7 other communities TWECS will help on this project.
I also must relay an event that happened yesterday. We were in a community that I had visited just after the quake happened. There were two homes that were built on the edge of a stunning vista of the valley thousand of feet below. The homes were reduced to rubble last year, but yesterday I noticed that the rubble had been removed and two corrugated tin structures were built from the ruins. While simple, these homes would definitely be adequate temporary homes and I was pleased see that rebuilding was taking place and that two families lives were headed in a positive direction. I asked Bandita if the homes were built with government or NGO assistance. Her reply… They were likely built from organ harvesting. The funding most likely came from someone so desperate to shelter their family, they chose to sell a kidney.
This is the level of poverty and desperation we will be seeing for the next 8 clinic days. The story of these two homes solidified my resolve to be in Nepal. The story of these two homes reinforces the feeling of pride I have to be a small part of the amazing accomplishments of the Third World Eyecare Society and the altruistic work of Marina, Derrick, Emma and Evan. Safe travels team and I will be waiting for you at the Kathmandu airport tomorrow anxiously anticipating our first patient on Friday.