Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I will never regret my choice

A blog post by Indira Koirala, UNICEF Nepal Programme and Planning Officer, as told to Mariana Palavra 

UNICEF Nepal Programme and Planning Officer Indira Koirala speaks with an earthquake-affected family who recently received UNICEF-provided aid supplies, distributed by partner organization Plan, in Dolakha District, Nepal on May 26 2015. © UNICEF Nepal/2015/BSokol

On April 25, when the 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, I had just stepped down from a domestic flight at Kathmandu Airport along with five other UNICEF colleagues. As I was calling UNDSS to inform them that we had arrived from our field mission, I didn’t understand what was going on until someone screamed ‘earthquake’, and two passengers fell from the plane’s ladder. When I looked at the runway, I could clearly see the wavy movement of the earth.

While others were trying to call their family, my first instinct was to report to the UNICEF warden system that I was safe and sound. For half an hour, all 72 passengers held on to each other, more so when we felt an aftershock.
An hour later I was out at the airport’s parking lot. Everyone else had rushed to go home and find their family’s whereabouts. I was left alone. I am single, I live alone and I don’t have any family. Fortunately, amidst the chaos, a taxi driver saw I was ‘lost’ and agreed to take me home.

For some strange reason, I don’t get very scared by earthquakes. So, as soon as I arrived home, I went to my third floor apartment and made myself a cup of tea and started to watch TV. A couple hours later, my neighbours urged me to get out of the house for security reasons. I guess I was a bit lost.

The first two nights I slept outside but I would go up to the apartment to cook and have my tea. Two days after the earthquake, I felt strong enough to walk one hour to the UNICEF office. It was such a great relief, I felt I was among a supportive family. I regretted that I hadn’t gone to work sooner. I just wanted to stay at the office and work more and more.

On 9 May, I volunteered to be a district emergency coordinator and two days later I left for Dolakha district, east of Kathmandu. En route our vehicle was badly hit by another vehicle. As a result my journey to Dolakha had to be postponed by a day. The next day, on May 12, we arrived in Charikot, the district headquarters of Dolakha, our final destination. Around 1 pm, we were following another UNICEF car with two colleagues with whom I was going to attend a Child Protection sub cluster meeting. We were driving down a narrow dusty road when suddenly the earth started shaking - we were experiencing a second earthquake - a 7.3. Our driver had to struggle to stop the car that seemed to veer toward the cliff side of the road. In this panic-stricken moment, I saw in front of us a stone house collapsing over the road. I was almost sure it had hit the other UNICEF car that was ahead of us. Similarly, I later learnt that our colleagues in the car had feared the same fate for us. It wasn’t until some hours later that we found out that none of us was hurt or had been directly caught by the earthquake.

I spent those first hours in a camp with families already displaced by the first earthquake. I looked around me and I saw families in extremely difficult living conditions, I saw some children with disability living without shelter. My mind was occupied with these sad thoughts when I saw an 11-year-old child who did not seem to be scared. ‘If this child living in these conditions is not afraid, why am I panicking?’ I thought.

The landscape after the second earthquake - whose epicentre was only 15 kilometres away from Charikot - was devastating. The hills all around were scarred with landslides, and homes had been turned to rubble. However, not for a second did I regret having volunteered for this position. Both after the car accident and the second earthquake, I was asked by my colleagues if I wanted to go back to Kathmandu. Both times I said no. I was not injured, I was not dead, so I had no reason to go back. Maybe the fact that I am not so scared of earthquakes and I often stay calm explains why I made this choice. In fact, despite the giant challenges, I have enjoyed working here. I suppose being extremely busy has helped me to keep going until now. 

My mission in Dolakha is about to finish and I have to go back to my post in Kathmandu. In fact, while all my colleagues, the other 11 district emergency coordinators were already back in Kathmandu. I stayed on behind as I had tons of work to do. I will stay here until the last possible minute. It’s a kind of responsibility. I will never regret my choice.  

NOTE: Indira resumed her regular duties in UNICEF Nepal Country Office in Kathmandu on 28 May 2015.  

1 comment:

  1. Special thanks to UNICEF for visiting to Nepal. My Metro Taxi chauffeurs are well trained for Detroit Airport Sedan service with Detroit city maps/GPS and know how to get you to your desired destination as quickly and safely as possible.