Print Edition - 2015-06-20  |  On Saturday

Back on the streets of Kathmandu

  • A Nepali based in the US returns home to help out fellow Nepalis who have lost so much to the quake
- PRAKASH TIMALSENA
Back on the streets of Kathmandu

Jun 19, 2015-

Devi Gurung recently returned with a heavy heart to Kathmandu. It was not that he did not want to be here; it was the thought of seeing a quake-ravaged Kathmandu that troubled him. Some three decades before the Great Quake hit the country, Gurung was a denizen of this ancient city. A homeless street kid then, he knew the city streets very intimately.

Gurung, who is currently based in the US, went to Basantapur Durbar Square as soon as his flight landed in Kathmandu. This was where he used to beg for money during his teenage years. Once his home, the place was now like a ghost town—the brick buildings he was so familiar with now dismantled and lying on the floor in piles of rubble.

Gurung holds a PhD in Health Science from Nova Southeastern University, which he acquired in 2008. He is currently a lecturer at St Louis University, Missouri, and works as a field instructor at Washington University and the University of Missouri. He is also the owner of a restaurant in St Louis, which his wife and son run. But this has not always been Gurung’s story.

Gurung was born to an underprivileged family in Tilche, Thoche VDC in Manang. After his parents’ death, Gurung and his seven siblings had to fend for themselves. As a frustrated teenager, Gurung fled Manang hoping to start a new life in the Capital. But circumstances did not prove favourable and he ended up as a beggar on the streets. Gurung tried his hand at several odd jobs to get off the streets, but it was only when he met one James States, during Gurung’s stint as a dishwasher, that he was able to extricate himself from Kathmandu’s seedy underbelly.

Gurung recalls telling States how he wanted to study and make something of himself. Impressed, States offered to help him, took the young man to the US with him, and paid for his education and accommodation.

Five years ago, Gurung, having established himself as a professional, returned to give back to a society that had never done much for him. He initiated free health camps in Manang and established a 10-bed hospital in Thoche Village, which has been catering to the locals in his hometown. He also provided free educational material and scholarships to the local students in the area.

Three years ago, Gurung returned to Nepal again, with his wife and son, and distributed food and clothes to the street children of Jhochhen, whose streets were his haunts as a street kid. And he returned home again a few months ago to be home in the time of its greatest need—to help the people who have been affected by the quake.

“Since Manang was left unscathed by the quakes, I did not go there this time around. However, our team is currently working in the worst-hit districts of the country,” he says.

He and his team have focused relief work in the Kubhinde Village region, Sindhupalchok, to help the quake survivors there. The team is working on installing drinking water taps, has been reconstructing the quake-hit schools and building public health posts.

“We decided to work at Kubhinde since it is one among the hardest-hit villages,” says Gurung. He is currently in the area with his team.

To help in Gurung’s efforts, many Nepali and American individuals in St Louis and other cities have been organising fundraising programmes on his urging.

“So many buildings need to be reconstructed and there is so much to be done,” says Savitra Sapkota, a local of Kubhinde, who has benefited from Gurung’s efforts. “We are glad that Nepalis living abroad have come to help us.”

Many street kids have problems re-integrating into society. Gurung knows this all too well, and thus, after he is done with relief operations, he would like to focus on helping street kids in the country.

“I have found my real home in work,” he says.

Published: 20-06-2015 08:07

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