Print Edition - 2015-05-08 | Earthquake Relief
Bal Mandir provides succour
May 7, 2015-
Four-year-old Pemba Sherpa wanders in a daze inside the premises of the Bal Mandir, in Sifal, Kathmandu. She had never strayed far from her mother before the earthquake. In fact, this is the first time she has ever been this far away from her small village in Ragini-8, which lies to the west of Okhaldhunga’sdistrict headquarters, Khalanga.
Pemba, her two elder brothers and a sister were brought to Bal Mandir, the government-run orphanage, on Wednesday, after the Great Earthquake took their father’s life and destroyed their home.
Pemba’s oldest brother,Tshering Dawa Sherpa, 11, recalls that he was playing outside their home with his friends and siblings when he felt the first jolts of the quake. His house and many of his neighbours’ crumbled right before his eyes.
But the worst for the Sherpa family was yet to come—when they received a phone call from a relative in Kathmandu, who said that their father, a porter by profession, had died in Rasuwa.
His father was killed after a deadly avalanche washed away the entire Langtang Valley in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, killing hundreds of locals, foreign tourists, guides and porters.
“My mother is alone in the village now. We were brought here by my uncle who lives in Kathmandu,” TsheringDawa said.
His brother Tenuri, 9, and sister Pasi, 7, keep asking Tshering about their parents.
“They want me to either take them home or bring mother here. They miss her,” says Tshering, who seems to understand what has befallen the family.
In the Sifal hostel of Bal Mandir, there are 12 other children who have been brought here from villages in Okhaldhunga, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur districts.
Bal Mandir is also now home to Babita Maharjan of Sifal, Kathmandu, and her two brothers, Rupesh and Raju.
Babita, an 8th grade student, says she is not sure what will happen to her schooling now.
The various Bal Mandir shelters across the country have already admitted dozens of children who lost their parents and homes in the earthquake.
According to Suraj Khanal, the coordinator of Bal Mandir’s Sifal branch, dozens of other people have asked the institution to provide shelter to kidswho have lost their parents or homes.
“We have been receiving many requests over the phone. Somebody told us this morning that around 50 children are being brought in from Langtang,” said Khanal.
Although the government has directed Bal Mandir to admit many children displaced by the earthquake, the oldest orphanage in the country is incapable of admitting more than a few dozen children, due resource constraints. The orphanage’s main building in Naxal has been completely destroyed and Sifal’s building too has been deemed unsafe to live in.
Dipak Das Shrestha, who is a board member of the institution, says that Bal Mandir has had to tweak its admittance criteria because of the tragedy. “We normally admit only orphans, but now we are also admitting kids who do have parents—given the gravity of the crisis,” said Shrestha.
Published: 08-05-2015 09:21