Nepalese students mourn homeland wreckage after earthquake

Rose Sacco, Copy Editor

Nepal’s worst earthquake in 80 years struck 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu this past Saturday.

About 8,000 miles from the epicenter of the magnitude 7.8 quake is a group of Nepalese students on Eastern’s campus, worrying about the future of their homeland.

Out of the 23 international students from Nepal, one in particular received some of the worst news he never expected to hear.

Sameer Gautam, a freshman pre-business major, cannot physically be there for his now homeless family.

“I don’t know where I shall go and what my parents are going to do,” Gautam said. “I cannot even contact them right now to know what the situation is because their cell phone is switched off due to no electricity.”

The first and last time he spoke to his parents since the quake was Sunday night when he received the news that his house and the surrounding area were damaged beyond repair.

“They had to move. The pets are dead,” Gautam said.

He said he is thankful that his family is alive and well because he knows that some of his neighbors cannot say the same for their family.

“It was fine after the first quake, but the aftershock, which was a magnitude 6.7, damaged my house badly,” Gautam said. “I am worried about my parents.”

Eastern, specifically the Office of International Students and Scholars, is now taking the initiative to help any Nepalese students.

“Initially, we were in communication with them, let them know we are here to address any concerns they have,” said Kevin Vicker, the director of the Office of International Students and Scholars. “Of course, we inquired to see if their families were safe.”

As of press time, the death toll because of the earthquake is more than 4,700; more than 9,200 are injured, and more than 8 million were affected.

“We are going to get a website together where people can donate online,” Vicker said.

The donations will go to an account through the Asian American Student Association which will then be given to the Nepalese who will decide which organizations the donations will go to in Nepal.

A link will be available for donators on the international programs website.

“The Nepalese students are a very close-knit community; they really know each other very well, so they know if there are other families and who has been affected,” Vicker said.

An email was sent out to the Nepalese students and Eastern staff members letting them know of the students’ despair.   

“We just try to be here to listen and eventually we’ll see how we can do whatever to help them,” Vicker said.

A vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Doudna steps for the victims of Nepal. Donation boxes will be set up near the steps as well as the library.

Rose Sacco can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].