It has been six months since earthquakes rocked Nepal, killing 9000 and injuring over 23,000. As I journeyed up into the border region of Sindhapalchowk along narrow roads I was keenly aware of the number of landslides and how living in the steep foothills of the Himalayas leave villages vulnerable to being cut off from outside help. One group that is making a difference is CARnet Nepal (Children at Risk Nepal) who are implementing OperationSAFE child trauma camps in the remote areas worst affected by the disaster.
Most of the homes in these villages have been destroyed and people are still living in temporary shelters made of corrugated tin. In the village of Tyanthali, from which we could see the snow covered peaks of the Himalayas in Tibet, Basanta Basnet, the district leader of CARnet Nepal has been working with the community to rebuild their collapsed school. After a community meeting they were thrilled to learn that seven of the children in the town had come back to the school that is being held in tents since the quake. Getting children back to school is the best way to help them build a better future, but it can be difficult to justify when survival is at stake for the families that live here.
Another danger for the children of Tyanthali is human trafficking. Most children who are lured away from their families are sold into slavery (working as manual laborers or as prostitutes) in India. However, CARnet Nepal has discovered over the years combatting the practice that most of the children are recruited not from the Indian border region but from the more “exotic” looking mountain people.
OperationSAFE camps not only help the children themselves recover from trauma, return to school and build resilience toward future catastrophes, but also creates a bond between local child protection volunteers and the children. CARnet Nepal, working with local child protection officials, trains the OpSAFE volunteers to meet regularly with the children, report on their condition, and make it more difficult for traffickers to target those who are neglected or are not attending school.
In the first six months eleven OperationSAFE child trauma camps have been conducted helping more than a thousand children. CARnet Nepal is planning to conduct 25 more OpSAFE camps in the mountains of Nepal. Basanta called the OperationSAFE training “powerful” but as I watched volunteers who were willing to walk for hours through the mountains to learn how to help children I was struck by the heart and passion of the Nepali people.
For adults the key to recovery from trauma after natural and man-made disasters is to talk about their experience, realize that they share common fears with others and find out that they are not alone. However this is not so easy for children. Traumatic experiences can stay with children and affect their development unless psychological first-aid is provided.
Children in Kalleri Lower Secondary School, Sindhupalchowk Nepal took part in an OperationSAFE psychological first-aid camp for children from July 26th to the 29th. Local volunteers were trained as small group leaders by OpSAFE International partner Ambassador Football Nepal. All homes in the town of Arubot were destroyed by the quakes and even while the camp was being held three aftershocks still shook the region. The Ambassador team stayed in corrugated metal temporary shelters and tents, cooked their food over a wood fire and fetched water from a distance down the hill. Each day the program was held for three hours but the children were very enthusiastic so they came early and left late.
64 children participated in the camp and 16 local volunteers were trained in psychological first-aid for children. Because these volunteers are local they will be able to follow-up with the children and be available when they are ready to share and process more the difficult experience they went through during the disaster. But for now the children and adults of Kalleri school know that they are not alone.
This is among the most superior things I have done in my life not because we did great but we did above our circumstances. Most of crew leaders have either shattered house or people to care in family. Most teachers had their exam in university and it was the most busiest month in my whole life and again we did it. We did it with just the faith in God and He was on our side. He did everything for us. Praise the lord.
– Rajkumar Yonjon – school principal and volunteer OpSAFE camp director
The first step in providing hugs, help and hope for the children of Nepal’s earthquake disaster has been accomplished. Training of Trainers (TOT) has been held in the capital Kathmandu and in the district of Nuwakot with dozens of local churches and ministries through our partners OM and CarNet Nepal. Both of these organizations have a long history of helping the poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable. Dozens of camps have been planned for this summer for thousands of children. You can support children to receive psychological first-aid by giving today. We need your help!