Generation next

  • Faced with a slow-to-act state, the youth, energetic and idealistic, have taken charge

May 7, 2015-

Among the death and destruction wrought by the April 25 Great Earthquake, there have been oases of hope and positivity. The outpouring of sorrow, sympathy, and aid from the world over has been overwhelming, as has the coming together of local communities to support each other in these trying times. One other silver lining in a great black cloud has been the role of Nepal’s young people after the disaster. Thousands of youth, nearly 50,000 by some estimates, have been working in the Kathmandu Valley alone since the disaster struck. Roughly 3,000 young volunteers have also been working in each of the 29 affected districts, according to the Nepal Policy Centre, a youth-based think tank.

Most of the work that these youth have been doing has been in collecting and distributing relief. Young people have been most visible on social networks, appealing for aid and directing it to the needy. Oftentimes they were the first ones to arrive in disaster areas, taking the relief themselves in motorbikes, cars, and trucks to villages while the government was staggered. Bibeksheel Nepali, a youth-based political party that contested, and lost, four seats in urban pockets in the 2013 polls, has been far more credible in the wake of the quake. Its members have been active in collecting relief materials and coordinating the distribution. The party mobilised its network of youth within hours of the earthquake and dispatched teams to severely-affected areas in Sindhupalchok, Gorkha, and Bhaktapur to assist in search-and-rescue and distribute relief. They have since also mobilised teams of young doctors to visit temporary camps and provide medical aid. Similarly, the Association of Youth Organisations, an umbrella body of 92 youth organisations across the country, also mobilised thousands of volunteers, including paramedics and doctors, in the early days of the disaster.

The myriad specialised skills of Nepal’s youth have been put to good use. There are young structural engineers offering to assess homes for free through; a team of young people at Kathmandu Living Labs has been digitally mapping the earthquake since the day after the quake, plotting missing people, blocked roads, destroyed homes, and relief programmes; one young man has even been making hand sanitizer out of glycerine and ethanol for areas that lack clean water.

More than anything else, these examples are testament to the fact that Nepal’s youth are not as cynical and jaded as they are often perceived by the older generation. On the contrary, they are simply looking for an avenue to channel their enthusiasm and idealism. In fact, the youth have put the government to shame. The state’s bureaucratic foot-dragging has been in stark contrast to the efficiency and energy of the youth. The face of Nepal’s relief effort has been that of a fresh-faced young person offloading trucks and handing over aid, not the ageing wrinkled visage of septuagenarian Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.

Published: 08-05-2015 09:25

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