A Light in the Dark

The month of August was a very challenging one for many people.  Mother Nature asserted herself across the globe, and reminded us all of the power she wields over our lives.  As images continue to roll in of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey, an equal amount of images depict the heroism and bravery of those who chose to put themselves in harm’s way to help  neighbors and strangers alike.  It is these images and these stories that remind me that we are a caring people dedicated to serving when called upon, and it reaffirms the importance of ParticipAid’s work building leaders, local capacity, and community resilience.  While the focus of our nation is rightfully trained on the ongoing disaster in Texas and the gulf coast, let’s not forget the people suffering some of the worst flooding Nepal and SE Asia have ever seen.

 Private citizens, members of the  Texas Navy,  traveled to Houston to help residents affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Private citizens, members of the Texas Navy, traveled to Houston to help residents affected by Hurricane Harvey.

On Monday, August 7, our working area in the Rasuwa district in Nepal was hit with a devastating landslide caused by historic rainfall during the annual monsoon.  Many homes were lost and 4 people lost their lives as the earth tumbled down the mountainside.  Like many communities in Nepal, still reeling from the 2015 earthquakes, Mother Nature imposed her will to terrifying results.  So far, more than 1,200 people have lost their lives in Nepal, India and Bangladesh, and water levels are still rising in many areas.  It can seem overwhelming and distant as we try to internalize the magnitude of the disaster in our own country, but this is happening right now to communities that are far less suited to cope with the aftermath of another life-altering natural disaster.

 Photograph of the August 7 landslide in ParticipAid's working area in Rasuwa District, Nepal.

Photograph of the August 7 landslide in ParticipAid's working area in Rasuwa District, Nepal.

As I try to grapple with the realities that have been presented, I turn again to the images of heroism and the stories of my friend’s sister who was evacuated from her home in Beaumont, Texas by a group of citizens in their own boat.  A part of the “Texas Navy”, these individuals are mobilizing at great risk to themselves, and helping evacuate people from flooded areas that haven’t been reached by the government response.  Neighbors helping neighbors.  This is the human spirit that is the hallmark of disaster response.  Similarly, in Rasuwa, it was ParticipAid’s partner organization, Share Nepal, that sprang into action with life-saving support and supplies when their neighbor’s land collapsed that evening.  Our leadership group was the first to respond – neighbors helping neighbors.  These two examples highlight the challenges and the dynamic nature of response and relief in the aftermath of a natural disaster.  Individual people that make up our communities are the first and sometimes only people to respond. 

 Children walk along a muddy hillside in Nepal, smiling in the rain.

Children walk along a muddy hillside in Nepal, smiling in the rain.

From its inception, ParticipAid has understood this simple fact because we have lived it.  Our mission is to help develop and support the capacity of communities impacted by natural disasters.  It has been shown time and again that these terrible life-altering events can bring communities together, and it is important to shine that light in the darkness.  It is our goal to use participatory development tools to help strengthen the bonds between neighbors and to empower them to be the first tier of support in an organized, effective and caring way.  Fortunately, Share Nepal had the tools and the resources to immediately engage, helping to ensure that survivors had shelter, food and support in their time of need.  This would not have been possible without the financial backing of our supporters. 

Please, let’s do everything we can to support those impacted by the myriad of natural disasters at the moment.  These are life-altering events, and we are only just starting to get a handle on the extent and impact of both Hurricane Harvey and the 2017 monsoon.  There is still a lot of uncertainty, but one thing that we can be certain of is the bond of shared experience and the love and heroism of our communities.  Let’s keep them in our thoughts and continue to nurture and support those on the front lines.