01/23/2017, 15.49
NEPAL
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As government is slow in providing aid, young Christian volunteers Christians step in to help quake victims

by Christopher Sharma

About 100 high school and university students spent their winter holidays bringing aid to the 14 most affected districts, fixing tents and providing hot meals. The government pledged funding in three installments, but not even the first has been provided.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – As government authorities continue to delay in getting help to earthquake victims, young Christian volunteers have decided to organise themselves on their own.

During their month-long winter holidays, about a hundred high school and university students have brought relief to people still living in tents since the 25 April 2015 earthquake, to the delight of Mgr Paul Simick, apostolic vicar of Nepal.

"I visited several people suffering from the cold who asked for help,” the prelate said. “We are at the forefront through the work of our missionaries, Church groups and Jesuits who are building homes and schools for the poor. As our work goes on, we hear stories of people disappointed by the government."

Volunteers come from various districts and are led by various coordinators. Narendra Tamang, who is working with 20 students in Sindupalchowk district, told AsiaNews that "young people have been deployed in the 14 districts most affected by the earthquake, where residents are suffering the most."

The money for this mission, he noted "was offered by the students themselves, who saved up for a year, giving up some leisure activities like going to the movies."

As for what they do, "young people are engaged in manual work, such as repairing damaged tents.”

Moreover, “As many elderly people live alone, they cannot cook because they have no firewood. Winter is very cold here, so we brought wood and guarantee them at least two hot meals a day."

Philip Shrestha, a young leader who coordinates volunteers in the Gorkha District, noted that "the idea of ​​voluntary work comes from the teachings of the Gospel."

Sadly, "after 20 months since the quake, many people are still living in tents and beg for help. The government announces programmes but then does not implement them."

According to the young man, "the authorities should properly channel foreign funds, but new leaders are alternating in power."

"They first allocate funds to their own parties and some places have received a first installment of aid due to political ties whilst other people in need wait in tents. Those who have their own money or a place elsewhere have found some solution, whilst others are camped under trees."

The government had told survivors that families could get 300,000 rupees (US$ 2,750) in loans per household to repair destroyed or damaged houses in three installments. Many are still waiting for the first one.

“I have just been appointed and I'm trying to better coordinate all the forces in the field," said National Reconstruction Authority chief Govindaraj Pokhrel as an explanation for the slow aid process.

"We know that we have not been able to comply with the government's announcements, and meet the expectations of the population,” he admits, “but we hope to release soon the promised funding."

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