On Shaky Ground In Nepal
I was stumbling around in the middle of the night trying to make it to the squat toilet. Taking short, quick steps I was in a hurry, aiming my headlamp at the ground to avoid tent stakes and electrical cords. In the distance I saw something white and red floating nearby and gasped as I saw her in my headlamp. I remembered this blind, albino girl wearing red from earlier today – pressing and feeling and curious about this new person and equipment in camp. She was one of a dozen or more orphans with major disabilities who had been abandoned by their caretakers for who knows how long.
A few days before, a Spanish Red Cross disaster response team ‘discovered’ this situation; a building of blind, disabled and handicapped young Nepali children who had been abandoned by their caretakers. The Red Cross team set up a camp behind the building, cleaning the filth and floors where the children had relieved themselves instead of the overflowing outdoor squat toilet. Until the Red Cross came across these children, they were left to fend for themselves, wandering around the building, eating handouts of rice from villagers.
I was there to install communications and internet for the Spanish Red Cross mass sanitation team using one of our American Red Cross VSATs.
Bringing Humanity, Energy and Compassion
When we arrived with our cases of equipment we were immediately surrounded by small, outstretched hands of the blind children wanting to understand through touch and feel.
When Elisandro Alvarez, my Spanish Red Cross counterpart, explained the situation, it was obvious this was no ordinary satellite terminal installation. These children were curious and many were blind. The equipment had to be placed far from the reach and access of very mobile and curious children. The Spanish Red Cross now came to my rescue as well; strong, energetic team members emptied a tall, heavy, wooden packing box creating a five foot tall base for our VSAT. Far from the prying hands of children. Perfect!
The amount of hard, dirty, hazardous work of the Spanish Red Cross astounded me during my time there. The filth they cleaned must have been overpowering—the stench was still there—worked deep into the concrete floors. The Red Cross rescued those children in addition to their normal duties providing clean water and mass sanitation for villages in the region.
I was humbled by the extreme humanity and compassion I saw extended by the team I was there to support. Now that the Red Cross team had internet they could coordinate with UNICEF for a long term solution to these unfortunate children. The difference these people made to the lives of these orphans can never be calculated. But they are making a difference in Nepal.
Julie Bradley, American Red Cross IT/Telecom ERU volunteer in Nepal.