Service Stories: News from an Alumna Abroad

Danielle Thompson graduated from SMS in 2010, and went on to complete a degree in history from UVic in June of 2014. We reached out to Danielle when we found out that she had arrived in Nepal only days before last month's tragic earthquake. As relief efforts continue in the area, Danielle took a moment to share some news about the volunteer work she is involved in there, and her impressions of a country dealing with a disaster which although it may seem far away, is a story that hits close to home for those of us living along the Pacific Ring of Fire.

While things remain quite calm in the city of Pokhara, there is definitely a different vibe post-earthquake. The tourist hub is not as bustling as it was when we first arrived from Kathmandu, two days before the first earthquake. Although Pokhara has not been affected in the same ways, or to the same degree, as Kathmandu and the surrounding villages, its tourist industry will suffer over the coming years. The difference is already noticeable - hotels are only filling a few rooms, restaurants are nearly empty, and the streets are much quieter.

I can't comment on the situation in Kathmandu, as I haven't seen it firsthand. We left Kathmandu a few days prior to the quake, with all its beautiful world heritage sights and temples intact. Everything I know of the crisis there is second hand, and everything I hear in the media changes daily.

Other volunteers have been unable to continue with their programs and have switched gears to other volunteering efforts associated with earthquake relief. We have been lucky enough to continue with our program at the children's home Vision Nepal. At our home there are seven kids and one twenty-one year old woman who cares for them, so they usually get a fairly steady stream of volunteers. Under normal circumstances another few volunteers would show up to take our place when we left and help out with daily activities. But, since the earthquake, programs have been  cancelled and they will not have much help for at least another few months.

This is my first time volunteering abroad, and IVHQ is an excellent organization to start out with. Vision Nepal is the children's home where my cousin and I have been placed. Essentially we come in the morning when the kids wake up, help with a few household chores, eat breakfast, walk the two youngest kids to school and then we have the middle of the day to ourselves to explore the town. In the afternoon we pick the kids up and bring them home, help out with homework where we can, help with the preparation of dinner and entertain the kids as best we can (although usually they're the ones providing the entertainment).

We have not felt the effects that those in Kathmandu have, but we have seen the ways it has indirectly affected those around us. Donations are being collected on every corner and sleeping bags and medical supplies are piled high in shops. While very ethnically diverse, it is clear that the people of Nepal feel very close in this disaster; they do not separate themselves from those who have been directly affected. Shopkeepers, waiters, cab drivers and many other locals we have conversed with over the past few weeks have shared with us that they carry heavy hearts knowing that their country is hurting. We are lucky enough to be removed from the centre of this disaster, but it has shown us just how far reaching it is, and how warm the hearts of the people here really are.

From Danielle Thompson, Class of 2010


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