Nepalese in Okanagan to focus on earthquake relief

A candlelight vigil held in Stuart Park drew a sombre crowd of several dozen to remember the victims of a massive earthquake in Nepal.

A  candlelight vigil held in Kelowna’s Stuart Park Sunday drew a sombre crowd of several dozen to remember the near 7,000 victims killed by a devastating earthquake in Nepal.

The event was organized by the UBC Okanagan’s Nepalese community who, though few in numbers, intend to focus the community’s attention on fundraising efforts in the months ahead.

“There are only six to nine of us at the university, but the support we’ve felt from the community and our student union has been tremendous, so we’d like to raise $40,000 for relief,” said event organizer Dinesh Adhikary.

Adhikary, a PhD student, said the funds will go to good use as he’s heard from friends and family at home that the devastation reported on these days still represents only the tip of the iceberg, in terms of wreckage.

“There are still so many people still waiting for supplies,” he said, pointing out that aid has yet to reach outlying areas.

Adhikary gets updates on these matters from his family members on a daily basis, but even while staying in touch, and trying to do what he can from afar, he still doesn’t feel right.

“I just feel helplessness,” he said.

It’s a sentiment that was echoed by others at the event, who openly wept when the Nepalese National anthem was played and speakers reflected on tales they’ve heard from home.

Gyan Shrestha was one of the speakers who shared a story  his family related to him in the aftermath.

“Ceilings collapsed and children cried,” he said.

His loved ones didn’t think they’d make it out of their home alive, but they did. The trouble they face in the aftermath is where they will go moving forward, as their house is “cracked.”

“There are many more stores more miserable and more depressing than this,” Shrestha said, noting that it brings the deepest sorrow to be far from family in their “greatest crisis.”

While those who have remained in the Okanagan while the story continues to unfold are dealing with the aftermath in their own way, Shrestha pointed out that one of their classmates went back to Nepal following the quake and his view has been even more horrific.

“He flew from Kelowna to Kathmandu and he said how frightening it was seeing the bodies piled up,” he said.

But, Shrestha said, despite the horrors at hand, the people of Nepal are “strong and resistant.” They just need help.

Another event aimed at keeping attention on the crisis in Nepal happened over the weekend, and it too raised funds for victims of the quake.

Kevin Edgecombe’s bottle drive at the old Western Star lot raised more than $13,000 in cash and cheques alone, and from the looks of mounds of empty cans and bottles, the number will rise much higher in the days to come.

Edgecombe is passionate about raising funds as he has been to the Himalayan country a number of times with the Inter-Cultural Women’s Educational Network, a registered non-profit charity for which he is the president.

“The worst in terms of the shakes are behind us, but the troubles there will only get worse. In the best of times, parts of Nepal are a tough place to live,” Edgecombe said earlier, noting that, among other things, the air quality is brutal.

“In the outlying areas, it’s like stepping back 150 years.”

Its poverty and relative primitiveness, have caught the attention of numerous non-governmental organizations, he said, which may be helpful in the days ahead as they are already on the ground.

“However, the infrastructure is dramatically less than it would be in other countries and the basic equipment needed to even pick up debris is hard to find,” Edgecombe said.

“Infrastructure is antiquated or non-existent…so you can imagine when the earth shakes, there will be issues with utilities, big concerns about sanitation.

In upcoming weeks Edgecombe will see the damage first hand, as he and his team will offer their help on the ground during a trip that was intended to put finishing touches on a building they previously constructed.

To send funds to Edgecombe’s charity go to facebook.com/IWENCanada and IWENCanada.com.

The Nepalese students are hoping funds can be raised at www.redcross.ca/UBCONEPSA or by going to the Facebook page Nepal Earthquake Relief Support.

Finally, the Kelowna charity Hope for the Nations is also fundraising. Dollars can be directed to them through www.hopeforthenations.com/helpnepal.

Kelowna Capital News

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