After weeks of disheartening news-stream reports in the wake of our two earthquakes, maybe you’re getting a little tired of hearing about it. Many of us are growing tired here as well, and the stress is beginning to show. However, I recently received an International Nepal Fellowship (INF) update on relief efforts in Dhading that was, for me, a beautiful and encouraging story of solidarity, so I’ll share it here.
Shortly after the first earthquake, an INF truck with relief supplies (food, shelter, hygiene kits) traveled to the Benigat VDC in Dhading district, one of the hardest-hit areas. They came to a village of Dhalit people, those previously regarded as “untouchable” according to the traditional Nepali caste system. Already at the furthest margin of the society, they live on “rented” land, meaning that they must give away a portion of their crops to landowners.
As elsewhere, this village was largely destroyed. The more fortunate villagers, those with livestock shelters made of wood and corrugated-tin (materials that tend to be slightly more earthquake-resistant) were staying in these sheds with their animals.
Despite such obvious need, the people of this village wished to express thanks and hospitality to the aid workers who had come. They set about collecting vegetables from their fields and offering them to the INF team. The staff at first tried to decline the gifts but the villagers insisted, so eventually the INF staff asked if they could pass along the vegetables to people in the next town, a three-hour hike away. It turned out to be a great idea, as the second village had none of their own due to poor land conditions.
What beautiful, costly generosity this Dhalit community displayed in the face of scarcity. Yet I see this as more than just a powerful gesture of solidarity, more than just an example of one impoverished village standing alongside another in the midst of crisis. It’s also an example of Nepali’s helping Nepali’s, as people here are empowered to care creatively for one another with what they have – sharing not just food, but also the intangible resources of kindness, imagination, community, and a wealth of practical skills & knowledge.
Of course, I don’t want to minimize the ongoing critical situation in this country. The needs here are indeed vast, and very real. The work of rebuilding will take years and require participation from the entire global community, in a committed and visionary partnership with Nepal, to be effective. Relief efforts by organizations and people from around the world thus far have been literally lifesaving, and continue to meet huge needs even now. May that still be true long after news cameras have shifted the world’s attention elsewhere.
Yet it would also be a deep mischaracterization to think of the people of Nepal as only the “needy poor.” Far from helpless, the hundreds of Nepali’s I’ve met and worked alongside are possessed of incredible toughness of mind and heart. Men and women across this country unblinkingly face challenges in their “routine” life that I wouldn’t even know how to begin to handle. They are a people of resilient strength, endurance, and innovation. They are a people that overcome.
And this is precisely what I believe will move Nepal forward in the coming months and years. I say this with confidence because these are the very elements that have sustained countless generations throughout Nepal’s history thus far. It’s a privilege I have, this chance to witness to such community and ingenuity in action, and one I don’t want to take for granted.