Continued assistance for victims of Nepal earthquake

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As Nepal works to recover from its April 25 earthquake, Catholics from the Arlington Diocese and beyond rally in support. Charitable organizations have united to provide food, medical services and other forms of relief for victims and their families. At press time, more than 7,200 are reported killed, with more than 14,000 injured, as a result of the 7.8 magnitude natural disaster that struck the Kathmandu metro area.

"There are 1,000 different needs," said Luke Hingson, president of Brother's Brother Foundation.

BBF is a 57-year-old gift-in-kind charity headquartered in Pittsburgh, with a secondary office in Fairfax. The foundation is supporting three Nepal-bound medical teams set to leave Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Loveland, Colo., by May 9. The teams will collaborate with the Nepal-based charity, Himalayan Health Care, to provide earthquake victims with emergency medical relief.

Bista Dipesh, a Pittsburgh-based doctor traveling with BBF, said the Nepalese "need as much help as possible, medical and nonmedical." This includes providing antibiotics, medications, surgical supplies and portable equipment, such as X-ray machines, in locations where there are no hospitals. It also means making safe drinking water available, building shelter and procuring food.

"Earthquakes don't typically destroy crops," said Hingson. "But even if farmers and farmlands survive, there are so many questions. When (can) they sow (the crops)? Where do they cook them?" He added that, for the time being, much of Nepal's food will be sourced from India.

"Down the road, medical needs will depend on how well we're able to clean debris," said Dipesh, who explained that striving for good sanitation will help prevent waterborne illnesses and other public health concerns during Nepal's journey toward recovery.

"Not everybody needs to go (to Nepal) today," said Hingson. "This will remain an issue months from now."

According to a May 1 press release, Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Catholic bishops' official global humanitarian agency, has committed $10 million to support Nepal. CRS has budged $2.5 million for the emergency phase, estimated to last the next six months and serve about 75,000 people. President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, K.Y., has encouraged a second collection to bolster immediate and long-term assistance.

Catholic missionaries are among the earthquake victims and the disaster has affected their ability to serve the people of Nepal.

Salesian Missions, the U.S. branch of the International Salesians of Don Bosco, has dispatched missionaries to the Himalayan country since the 1990s. Normally, the Salesians serve children and families by operating schools and related programs; now, they are serving earthquake victims as they can but urge the world community for donations to their Nepal Emergency Fund to abet their aid efforts.

"Our mission building suffered damages and some walls collapsed," said Sister Gloria Mar of the Salesian Sisters of John Bosco and their mission in Kathmandu in a report sent to Salesian Missions' headquarters in New Rochelle, N.Y.

"Thanks be to God all our sisters are alive. By the order of the government, our sisters have had to evacuate. They are suffering from shock, fear, homelessness and all that comes with it. They are living in tents, doing their best to help the population that is suffering so much," she added.

Father Silas Bogati, vicar general for the Diocese of Nepal, wrote the following in his April 29 appeal:

"Much media attention has been given to the avalanches at Everest base camp because well-equipped foreigners are able to send news via social media; but it is the rural poor in districts around the epicenter who are suffering more profoundly. The destruction of homes in outlying villages has been even more catastrophic than those places appearing in the news."

In his appeal, Father Bogati also said that people are "terrified" to sleep in their homes since buildings that appear sound may still be at risk for collapsing. As such, many people are sleeping in tents in open areas. He added that Kathmandu's "small airport is strained to the limit as planes carrying emergency supplies and relief workers arrive."

"I think it is important for the American Catholics to know that the people of Nepal are wonderful and kind and hard-working and very religious," said Father Joe Thaler, a Maryknoll priest who has been on mission in Nepal since the 1970s. "It is a tough and rugged country and the people have to work hard to survive each and every day. So in a situation like this it is even more difficult for them."

The Arlington Diocese will be taking up a collection for Nepal at a date that has not yet been determined.

Find out more

To donate to Catholic Relief Services, go to donate.crs.org/Nepal; to donate to Brother's Brother Foundation, go to brothersbrother.org. For more information about Salesian Missions, go to salesianmissions.org/Nepal.

Stoddard can be reached at cstoddard@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015