Members of the Nepali Student Association are doing everything in their power to provide help to the victims in Nepal who are advised not to re-enter their homes for at least two weeks.
At around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, Nepali students at the University of Connecticut heard news of a massive earthquake in Nepal, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale.
The following days have brought intense aftershocks, dozens measuring above 5.
UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said there are currently no UConn students, faculty or staff in Nepal that the university is aware of.
There was a UConn trip to Nepal planned for this May and there have been no news yet of delays or cancellations.
“As soon as I heard the news, I tried calling home but couldn’t get through. Me and all of my friends were panicking here as we were not able to get through to our loved ones,” said Sadikshya Bhandari, graduate student from Nepal studying molecular and cell biology. “I finally got a hold of my father after trying for several hours.”
Sadikshya said all of her immediate family lives in Kathmandu, Nepal including her parents.
The epicenter of the earthquake was centered around the Gorkha district of Nepal according to the Wall Street Journal, in between the capital Kathmandu and city of Pokhara.
Saroj Bhandari, also a member of the Nepali Student Association (NSA), said his immediate family lives in the U.S. but he still knows many people on the ground in Nepal.
Saroj was born in the Sindupalchok region, which he described as being hit very hard by the earthquake and dozens of aftershocks.
“I can’t even go to sleep,” Saroj said. “It was so hard to focus in class because I was thinking about this the whole time, you know?”
Saroj is in contact with his more distant family members like his cousin and uncle.
“Where I’m from in Nepal, my uncle still lives in a village area where the whole houses are mostly made out of mud and so a lot of the houses are completely demolished, so they’re sleeping in the field under a tree,” Saroj said.
“They’re in the streets, with tents… because the house is still shaking,” said Saroj, in regards to his cousin’s home. “They’re even scared to go inside the house to go to the bathroom because they think the infrastructure might fall or some bigger quake might come out.”
Saroj said landslides have wreaked havoc on the landscape and roadways making rural villages much more difficult to reach for aid and the villages are facing the most danger because they are not in the main focus of the news.
“Nepal is known for Everest, and Nepal is very developed in just the [Kathmandu] but the earthquake didn’t start in the capital city, it just impacted the capital city. There’s certain areas like Gorkha and Lamjung… we still can’t get there. And they’re completely demolished, there’s no food, there’s no water and because the spotlight is on Everest and in the capital city, I don’t think there’s much aid going to the small villages.”
Saroj has been following Jet Airways’ posts on Facebook because they have been updating flights leaving for Nepal and landing with free cargo space reserved for relief materials.
He has been avidly trying to contact Jet Airways and Qatar Airways in hopes of reserving cargo space for donations from UConn and the NSA along with other local Nepali organizations in Hartford and Branford, Conn.
Meanwhile his fellow NSA members met on Sunday night to coordinate a vigil and drive on Wednesday night on Fairfield Way at 7 p.m. as well as a bake sale in the entrance to the library on Thursday to raise donations for rescue and relief efforts.
The drives will be collecting items such as hand sanitizer, solar flashlights, tents and basic medical supplies to ship to Nepal.
Saroj and Sandikshya have been sharing and reposting all information they find about Nepali relief to pass the word onto their extensive network of Nepali friends and family.
For example Saroj reposted the fact that AT&T have removed all costs for calling and texting Nepal until May 16, and his friends commented to add Sprint and T-Mobile to the list.
“I think it will show the character of our country if we can really pull through this it will show how strong we are. As corrupt and ‘third-world’ as we are, people are very helpful. In situations like this, you can see policemen picking up concrete structures on the ground with their bare hands and rescuing people,” said Saroj. “That shows the strength and character of our nation and our community.”
He added, “I wish I could just go in there, be on foot, and be there myself.”