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Revisiting Nepal

The earthquake that struck Nepal last spring hit close to home for some in the Susquehanna community, particularly Nirvana Thakur '18, who was born and raised in the country until the age of 13. Even before the earthquake, Thakur knew she wanted to work in Nepal someday. The earthquake just bumped up her plans.

"I wanted to go help my family and my community," says the Elmhurst, N.Y., resident, who took a three-month internship with the nongovernmental organization Saathi last summer. Thakur helped in the recovery efforts, working in camps that Saathi set up. She also created brochures and case studies about victims of gender-based violence, led stress-relieving exercises for kids in several camps, and worked with women who had lost their homes.

David Richard, professor of biology, associate dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and facilitator of the Sherpa Life and Culture Global Opportunities (GO) trip to Nepal, was also moved to action following the April 25 earthquake that killed more than 8,000 people. He led a fundraising effort that brought in about $8,000, which was evenly divided between the United Nations Children's Fund and the International Red Cross.

Fortunately, when Richard and six students returned to Nepal in January for the 2016 GO trip, they found the country in a state of recovery. "The media reports of total devastation have been exaggerated," says Richard. "The damage is not trivial, but it's not the disaster zone people said it was."

Richard and the students spent three weeks in and around Kathmandu and trekking to the South Base Camp at Mount Everest. People in that region are suffering most from a decline in tourism, as evidenced by their guide's heartfelt welcome.

"He said, ‘Thank you for coming and not listening to all of the scare talk. We're functioning and it will be OK,'" Richard recalls. In other words, he says, "Nepal is open for business."

The news is encouraging for Thakur, who, following graduate school, plans to return to her homeland and work in the nonprofit sector, focusing on gender equality.



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