The stories, images and videos that are being shared demonstrating the devastation caused by not one, but two, earthquakes in Nepal is heartbreaking. The fact that I was just in Kathmandu a few months ago makes the impact that much more close.

I traveled to Nepal as part of the Leave for Change program coordinated by Uniterra. I spent three weeks working with CECI Nepal and their partner, the WEAN Multipurpose Co-op.  While my time there was relatively short, it was extremely full and rich due in large part to the warmth and hospitality of the people that I met and worked with. The WEAN Multipurpose Co-op is a non-profit organization that supports female entrepreneurs who own companies that produce handicraft and food products. I had the opportunity to interview some of the business owners so that we could share their stories online. While gathering these stories I visited several home-based workshops and production facilities and got to meet the women and men that create these beautiful products by hand.

While my inability to understand or speak the local language did present some communication challenges, I found that people went out of their way to make me feel welcomed in so many ways that often words were not required. Luckily all of the people that I worked with are physically okay, but they are haunted by aftershocks and the threat of further earthquakes which have them sleeping outside with the monsoon season fast approaching. Most of the other international volunteers that I met have been transported home by their governments, unless they, like my friend from Australia who has a background in construction and engineering, opt to stay to contribute their valuable expertise to the recovery and rebuilding efforts.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be living in a situation like this, but it is hard not to draw a parallel from the events occurring in Nepal to the ever present threat of an earthquake here is Vancouver. As I go about my day-to-day activities in Canada I wonder how well prepared we will be when the big one hits, or if it is even possible to be prepared for a disaster of this magnitude.

I can barely believe my eyes when watching the videos showing sites that I visited that now have piles of rubble where once ancient temples and monuments stood. Or a CCTV video showing panicked people scattering as the ground shakes beneath them and a large brick archway crumbles to pieces on a road that I traveled daily on my way to work.

With all of the stories of devastation and loss that are coming out of Nepal, there are also many stories of hope, community and strength as people band together to help one another in this horribly difficult time. With an economy so dependent on tourism and foreign aid, Nepal needs all the help that it can get to recover.

(Editor’s note: to donate to CECI’s campaign you can follow this link: Nepal Earthquake Emergency Response)

DanaHiggins_B1Some of the team and Board members that I worked with at WEAN Multipurpose Co-op, a partner of CECI Nepal