CHILDREN FORCED TO SLEEP OUTDOORS
INTRO: Forty kids from an orphanage in Kathmandu had to spend the night on their sports field after cracks appeared on their hostel building after the earthquake.
RAJISH ARYAL: 40 kids at an orphanage had to spend the night in the open, in the cold. We spoke to someone who is running the orphanage, her name is Hausala Thapa. We spoke to her about the students at the orphanage called the children and youth first. Here is our conversation with her.
HAUSALA THAPA: I don’t know if I should say we were lucky, it (earthquake) struck during our lunch time. The dining and kitchen area is on the ground floor that’s why the kids were out in the playground, in an open space.
When it was really shaking then the kids, at first, were very scared. It was very scary. We didn’t know how to react. But we all huddled together and sat on the floor.
With the hostel, the whole house was shaking so it has cracks. And we couldn’t go inside because there were constant aftershocks. The aftershocks are also very strong. So we spent the whole night at the basketball court. We don’t have any tents. We just took the quilts at night and stayed there.
It was raining as well at night. We all were like, whoever is up there, whoever is the god, we were all praying so that it wouldn’t rain. For all the people, everyone is out of their houses. So we spent the whole night outside and right now we are all still sitting outside.
RAJISH ARYAL: Hoe many kids are there now?
HAUSALA THAPA: All together we have 40 students in our hostel and with staff we are about 50 people here.
RAJISH ARYAL: 50 and all of you have spent the whole night outside?
HAUSALA THAPA: Yes, the whole night we were outside. The roads have cracked open, near Bhaktapur, the old houses have all collapsed, walls have collapsed and each aftershock has been very scary. Not just light ones but it feels like it’s coming vertically. The radio is working, also the phone and internet has been working as well. So we’re getting updates about what’s happening.
RAJISH ARYAL: With the little students, what are they saying about the earthquake?
HAUSALA THAPA: They are asking us a lot of questions like why is this happening, why is it going for so long. That’s the older students. The young kids don’t quite understand what an earthquake is. It’s shaking and they get dizzy. For older kids, they are scared and keep asking questions like if your school collapses then what are we going to do? How are we going to go back to our hostel? The hostel is cracked, there are constant aftershocks so where will we sleep and what will we do if it rains? These are the things they are asking.
RAJISH ARYAL: What are you planning to do if it rains?
HAUSALA THAPA: So far no shops has opened anywhere and there was a big aftershock just this morning before six. If the shops were to open then we’re planning to go get some tarpaulin. We don’t even know where to buy tents. The situation is also not that great to be walking outside.
RAJISH ARYAL: What kind of assistance have you got so far to keep the kids safe?
HAUSALA THAPA: To keep them safe, one good thing that happened is, because the ground we have is big, we’re all sitting on the middle of the ground. The school building is not that tall either and is on the side and because there are no tall houses around us either so the space where we are staying is very safe.
But in so many other places, the ground has cracked open. But in terms of assistance, we have blankets but would be good to have sleeping bags and tents. We have collected some food since last night. But the shops are slowly running out of noodles and water. Yesterday it was the same situation in Kathmandu as well. Water and noodles are running out. A lot of people are buying those items.
What can I say, in times like this, I don’t want to talk about negative things but we Nepalese are looking out for one another. But what has happened is that, so many foreigners….there are diplomats and expats living around the area and they all have houses with big compounds but they’ve all locked their gates.
Houses have collapsed just next to them, people are spending their night on the road but no one opened their gates and asked people to come in and stay in their garden or front yard. They’re talking on their satellite phones and they’ve all picked up the people they know and taken them to the safe zones. But they haven’t asked any Nepali about assistance, the Nepali people they don’t know. Maybe they think we will steal and rob them or something but what can I say. This is the sad truth. Everyone is facing the same thing here.
RAJISH ARYAL: So there is no way yet to find out whether you can return to your building?
HAUSALA THAPA: As far as we think, we’ve checked around the school building and there seems to be no damage but our hostel building is not in a suitable condition to be able to go back. Because there is a chance for the building to collapse if there is another earthquake.
RAJISH ARYAL: What option do the kids have now? It’s probably not possible to spend nights out on the ground. What plans do you have for the next few days?
HAUSALA THAPA: Our plan right now is to ration the food stock we have, so we are trying to limit our usage. Let’s see how long we will have to stay. The government has told us to remain alert for the next seventy two hours. So we’re just thinking about how to use our supply.
Another thing we are thinking about is what we are going to do if it rains. And if there is some major incident then we’ve organised the medicines as well. We’ve prepared the shovel as well incase we needed to dig. That is how we are talking to older students as well.
RAJISH ARYAL: If someone wanted to help, what can they do?
HAUSALA THAPA: For those who want to help, what we say is that whoever is listening to us from overseas, Nepali people who have their families here, this is not just our problem but look around other places as well. Organisations have their account numbers, we have that too. Otherwise if you know someone then if you have things like sleeping bags and tents then tell them to deliver them. Or cash help is also welcome. But more than cash, water, food and tents are important right now.