Two years ago, on April 25, 2015, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck in Nepal. More than 9,000 people lost their lives, and almost a million people lost their homes.

I’ve been back home in Nepal since I wrote in Civil Beat about how Hawaii could help, and I wanted to share what’s been happening since the earthquake.

Nepal is one of the poorest nations in the world, and a country that is engulfed by corruption. I have seen little progress to provide and care for the earthquake victims. The government of Nepal is also reluctant in rebuilding its world heritage sites.

People search the rubble in the Kathmandu Valley for survivors of the catastrophic 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Laxmi Prasad Ngakliusi/UNDP Nepal

We, the people of Nepal had little hope from the government, which is unstable. Now, the government in heading toward conducting local elections after 20 years next month, and I fear that the focus will be diverted to politics rather than supporting the victims and rebuilding the nation.

The government of Nepal and big international non-governmental organizations received millions of dollars in donations to rebuild the nation. However, very little progress has been made. People have almost lost faith in the government and also brand name non-governmental organizations.

As much as we are frustrated with the government, I wanted to share you a silver lining story about a girl who was on verge of being trafficked. The Nepalese residing in Hawaii are contributing to support the children who have lost their parents in the 2015 earthquake.

Child-trafficking, already a major problem in Nepal, has been steadily rising since the earthquake.

The Society of Nepalese in Hawaii is supporting a small non-governmental organization, the Himalayan Children’s Charities in Nepal, where I’ve been volunteering to support orphaned and abandoned children after the earthquake.

Last month, staff of the Himalayan Children’s Charities and I went to visit some children in a village in Rasuwa district, about 100 miles northwest of Kathmandu. These children, who lost one or both parents in the catastrophe, have been placed in a local boarding school. We visited earthquake survivors still living in temporary shelters called Internally Displaced People camps.

When we visited one of these camps, we met a 5-year-old girl, who had all the energy in the world. She was roaming place to place in search of food and shelter. She had lost her house in the earthquake and was living with her elderly grandfather.

The girl’s father abandoned her when she was born, claiming that he did not father her. Her mother was also not interested in caring for her from the beginning, and her maternal grandmother took on the role of caregiver when the girl was an infant. Her mother was then sent to prison, more than three years ago, when the girl was about 2 years old. Her grandmother also died of a heart attack the same month that her mother was sent to jail.

Since then, the girl has been effectively on her own. Her aged grandfather is homeless himself, displaced by the 2015 earthquake. Her mother was recently released from prison after serving a three-year-sentence. The mother, just like the father, has abandoned the girl.

When we met the girl she was wearing filthy and wet clothes and we were informed that these were the one set of clothes that she had. She was not enrolled in any school. She had been roaming around from one camp to another, and from village to village, looking for food and shelter.

The IDP camps are makeshift shelters made of corroded tins. The camps lack ventilation, insulation, clean water and bathrooms, making them unsuitable habitat for extended period of time, especially for unaccompanied small children.

Her mother told us on the phone that she would allow anyone interested to take the girl. She said she was ready to give her away to whoever would take her first, which presented a great risk of her being trafficked domestically or internationally, sexually exploited, sold for child labor, or another similar fate.

Child-trafficking, already a major problem in Nepal, has been steadily rising since the earthquake. Being an abandoned child who is homeless and malnourished, the girl was also at-risk for health problems.

As soon as we learned that the girl was still not being cared for, and knowing that she was extremely vulnerable to being exploited or trafficked, we immediately took her to a local community boarding school. We met with the school’s principal and the hostel warden, who immediately enrolled her into the hostel and school.

The school had sustained severe damage in the earthquake. The hostel was made of zinc sheet, just like the temporary shelters. The kitchen was next to the girls’ room. All the smoke coming out from the wood-fire filled up the girls’ room.

We were assured that the girl would be provided with nutritious food, shelter, medication, an education, and plenty of playtime, playmates and adult oversight.

After a couple months, we visited her again in her boarding school. She looked much better and had made some friends. I ‘m happy that she is in care of teachers, her brothers and sisters from the school and her friends. She will have a bright future.

But, this is just the tip of an iceberg. We don’t know how many children are orphaned and abandoned after the earthquake. We don’t know how many young children have been or are being trafficked. 

I still have hope. I’m thankful for the people of Hawaii, who have shown so much aloha and helped Nepal. I am convinced that small organizations and volunteers are more effective in helping people in need than a government or a big independent non-governmental organization, at least in the context of Nepal.

For more information about the Himalayan Children Charities and to support children, visit the Society of Nepalese in Hawaii website.

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