Students Join Community in Vigil for Nepal Earthquake

As candles were lit one-by-one and passed onto each person’s neighbor, the crowd held their hands around their candle to prevent the flame from going out from the wind. As the wind blew on, the candles remained aglow.

University of Connecticut students surrounded neighbors and Nepali natives on Fairfield Way yesterday for a vigil to honor victims of the recent earthquake in Nepal, which has killed over 4,800 people and injured over 9,200, according to CNN.

“I was shocked…it shook me deep inside,” said Suvash Dhakal, a graduate student in civil engineering at UConn and a Nepali citizen. “It was to be expected, but we weren’t expecting such destruction at that level…all we can do is have the world come together,” said Dhakal. It has been over 80 years since such devastating seismic activity, according to CNN.

Dhakal’s whole family lives in Nepal. His brother texted him that they were all safe so he “didn’t have to worry about my family.” He admitted that when watching the news, “it was too much,” because he “knows more information than [his family] have” regarding the full magnitude of destruction, due to the slower spread of news in Nepal.

Abhinaya Joshi, a Nepali citizen who graduated from UConn around 10 years ago and lives in Windsor, Connecticut, said that when watching the news it was “terrifying” and “very sad” for him to watch. He said he immediately called home to his family back in Nepal, but couldn’t reach them for an hour, for “most people tried to do the same.”

Joshi said most of his family is safe, but that “it was confusing and terrifying” for them who, in fear of aftershocks, stayed and slept outside without going back into their home for four days. He said they went inside for the first time today. He felt sympathy for those many less fortunate who lost their homes saying, “they don’t have anywhere to go back to.”

The loss of human life from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake is astonishing, but another part of Nepal was also been taken from the people—the historic structures and sites. Yerina Ranjit, a communication graduate student at UConn, spoke to the crowd about the temples and other historic landmarks she reveled over as a child disappearing in a moment’s time. “It was a part of my identity…it’s now all rubble…your help is needed urgently,” she said.

Over the course of the vigil, poems were recited, speeches were made and songs were sung about unifying and overcoming tragedy. “We may be around the world, but it means a lot that you are showing support,” said Suyash Adhikari, 4th semester student at UConn and host of the vigil.

“We can show them that we stand by their side…it might bring some solace that somewhere people are thinking of them”, said Ed Masse, a student at UConn and the philanthropy co-chair of the Indian Student Association. Masse went onto say that “we, as human beings, have to reach out and help those in need,” for someday we might be in that situation.

There were donation boxes at the front, but people were encouraged to donate money to reputable charities, such as the Red Cross and UNICEF, to have the most efficient and immediate affect. Still, some urged the crowd on Fairfield Way to go beyond just donating money.

“Once the news is done, there is still more work to do…we cannot end it today. We need to continue working,” said Dr. Bidya Ranjeet, who works at UConn’s Center for Academic Programs, urging everyone to contact the Nepali government and United Nations to increase and sustain their relief efforts. She stressed the need for stability to be achieved within Nepal so the people can start to rebuild.

Many Nepali students felt helpless when they first heard the news of the earthquake. Shushrusha Lamsal, a 4th semester student at UConn, spoke of the vigil saying, “for a lot of us students here, we felt helpless and this let us feel like we were helping.” Lamsal went onto say, “it’s a really hard reality that we can’t do anything and we can’t go there,” referring to the fact that it is a disaster zone and no one can fly there at this time.

Unification of the Nepali people within the area, and the greater UConn community at large, was plain to see at the vigil.

“In times of need, all of us Huskies come together in support of this…supporting a noble cause,” said Prachi Shah, a 5th semester student at UConn and member of the Indian Students Association. Shah spoke to the crowd saying, “May the living have hope, may those who died rest in peace,” giving solace to anyone and everyone affected by the huge losses endured by the people of Nepal.

“It’s often the worst of times that brings out the best in people,” said Abhishek Thakur, president of UConn’s Nepali Student Association.

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