By Alan Branch–
The mountainous country of Nepal is home to one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world, Mount Everest. It was there where tragedy struck on April 25, at 11:56 NST by an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude: The Gorkha earthquake, which killed more than 9,000 people and became the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since 1934.
The Gorkha earthquake lasted barely a minute. It reined its terror by triggering an avalanche that killed at least 19 people, making it the deadliest day in Mount Everest history. Dharahar tower, located in the capital Kathmandu, was succumbed to nothing more than a stump of rubble. The Bhimsen Tower, a popular site for tourists that had already been rebuilt after the earthquake in 1934, was once again flattened.
Times of hardship come unexpectedly in the most brutal and severe ways, leaving countries desecrated and hopeless. Even though it seems like everything is lost, fate comes along and calls out to people like Caroline DuPlessis.
DuPlessis, a junior nursing major, has always had a love for traveling and doing relief work. She never expected a chance to serve to come so abruptly and unexpectedly. Through her dad, she met a woman named Tia Benton who had done previous relief work as a “water woman” for an organization called Water with Blessings.
WWB is a nonprofit organization that aims to aid mothers and missioners partnered with a ministry to bring safe water to communities in need. Their quest is to “change the reality of dirty water in marginal communities.” For weeks at a time, water women will travel with hundreds of filtration kits. Once they reach their location, their goal is properly train the community on how to use these kits, and access clean water.
A couple days after the earthquake in April, Benton booked a flight to Nepal. After having been to Nepal four years earlier, she knew of people in need of water. When DuPlessis saw pictures of Benton’s trip, she knew she wanted to be at Benton’s side if she ever got the chance to go back. It certainly didn’t take long for that chance to serve to come knocking at DuPlessis’ door.
With only a month to prepare, she started a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe.com and raised just enough money to cover the expenses for the trip.
When There’s a Will, There’s a Way
The trip had already begun with an unforeseen dilemma when they arrived in Nepal, when four out of the eight bags of filters got stopped in customs at the airport. Typically, it takes three to four days to get something out of customs in Nepal which would have taken up almost half of their ten day trip. Benton, fortunate enough to know a member of the Embassy of Nepal, USA, was able to get their bags out of customs in less than five hours.
After retrieving their bags, they met with local and future partners of WWB at Social Tours, a non-profit organization whose primary focus is geared towards disaster relief missions. Representatives from Sisters with Charity and Nepal Share discussed plans of sustainability, as well as getting water women stationed after Benton and DuPlessis left.
Later that day the duo met with the founders of Nepal Share.Within 24 hours they both trained on how to use the filtration systems, as well as plan their next day departure to the tiny district of Gorkha, Nepal. Once there, they traveled to the villages Kerauja and Kashigaun to distribute their resources.
The next day at five in the morning, DuPlessis, her mentor Benton and other members of Nepal Share hired a driver to take them up to Gorkha with the resources they had planned to provide the villages. The resources consisted of 420 filters provided by WWB, 300 blankets provided by Nepal Share and 200 solar paneled lights.
“It was the most ridiculous off-roading you could imagine,” DuPlessis remembers. “If it would have rained, I don’t know how we would have gotten back down.”
When they got to Gorkha, they were confronted by a broken bridge over a river that was destroyed by the earthquake. This left them with only two possibilities: they were going to have to hike to the villagers or the villagers would have to hike to them. The hike to Kerauja alone would have taken them at least three days.
Believe it or not, the next day both villagers made the hike down. It took the people from Kerauja 12 hours and eight hours for the people from Kashigaun. A mass of 1,000 men, women, children and elders ran to them with baskets on their heads and smiles on their faces.
Money Can’t Buy You Happiness
To conclude her ten day trip in Nepal, DuPlessis got to visit Bhaktapur where Benton stayed four years ago in a previous trip. Humbled by her experience, the people in Bhaktapur threw a ceremony to show their gratefulness for providing them with clean water.
“The thing is there’s always stuff you need—you need water, food, shelter and that’s when it becomes a problem when you don’t have your basic needs and you don’t have a way to get them,” says DuPlessis. “The biggest thing I noticed was how resilient they are. No matter what happens, even after disaster, you just move right on. At firsthand I was able to see that money really doesn’t have anything to do with your level of happiness.”
DuPlessis’ experience to serve others is her newfound source of joy—something money will never be able to buy. She plans to continue doing research on some service ideas she wants to put into action this upcoming semester.