Written by Ruth Shrestha, The Leprosy Mission Nepal.
In the journey of our lives we face many challenges. One among them was facing problems brought by the earthquake two years ago. The earthquake on 25th April in 2015 was really unexpected. It has been two years since this event occurred, but people still have grief and painful experiences which are like scars on their bodies deep down and they are still suffering due to it. At that time we ourselves (at TLM Nepal) were traumatised but we also had a responsibility to help others. As a counsellor at Anandaban Hospital, my role and responsibility was to support the earthquake-affected people psychologically and mentally, not only in the hospital but also in the community.
We who were living in the hospital quarters were afraid of sleeping inside, as heavy aftershocks continued every day or two for two months, making us feel vulnerable. We slept outside in tents on the ground. We put patients in tents too as the earthquake caused considerable damage inside the buildings and living and sleeping inside was a scary thing. And some of our buildings were badly cracked so we kept tents outside for a long time because we had not enough buildings for our needs.
Even the schools were closed for several weeks. I had to leave my ten years old daughter alone in my room. So I was distracted at work whenever we felt a tremor. Once when it happened, I had gone to a community to take a survey of the condition of leprosy patients, leaving my daughter alone at home. While I was away the aftershock made me frightened thinking about my daughter. Right after the tremor I tried to call her, but the network was not working, so it made me more frightened. But later on I came to know that she was fine.
As a counsellor, I have been personally impacted by patients as I have listened to their experiences and all their sufferings. Some of them lost their loved ones and some of them lost their houses and properties. This natural calamity, the earthquake, made our lives stressful, brought untold suffering and left indelible scars in our lives because this natural phenomenon was unpredictable and beyond our control – something we were not prepared to face. Moreover our limited resources made coping with this kind of huge devastation extremely difficult. Some of our staff members’ houses also collapsed. When I visited them and their family members, I came to know that they had tremendously suffered physically and psychologically. Some of our patients were separated from their families for months with no idea where they were! Pregnant women, children and aged people were the ones who had to face a lot of suffering psychologically.
Still when I visit patients in my role as a counsellor, they share with me about their traumatised feelings. Most of the people affected as a result of the earthquake in different nearby districts of Kathmandu are still living in temporary shelter. They haven't been able to make their own houses because of financial difficulties. Some of the people affected by leprosy got financial support from The Leprosy Mission for their livelihood and for shelter as well. It has given them hope again.
Sita was reunited with her family after four months.
Ruth Shrestha is a counsellor at Anandaban Hospital, Nepal. She joined the Mission in January 2009. She is a Christian. She holds a Bachelor degree in psychology and three months training in clinical counseling. At present, she is doing a Masters in counselling psychology.