CNN Heroes struggle after Nepal quake


Credit: Early Childhood Development Center CNN Hero Pushpa Basnet with children in her care, following the earthquake that destroyed their home in Kathmandu.

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Two CNN Heroes are among the earthquake survivors in Kathmandu, Nepal. And they are struggling in the aftermath.

Anuradha Koirala, who rescues victims of sex trafficking, has a rehabilitation center in Kathmandu that is home to 425 young women and girls. While her primary facility seems structurally unharmed, all of the children have been sleeping outdoors because of aftershocks.

The once-vibrant campus has gone from a place of safety and healing to one of uncertainty and worry.

“We are suffering with rain, strong wind. The fear is not gone from us. It is very, very hard,” said Koirala, the founder of the nonprofit Maiti Nepal and the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year.

The public has been warned not to use the main water line due to risk of cholera. Koirala’s group is relying on bottled water and is now rationing food.

Still, she has offered to take in 200 other girls orphaned by the disaster.

“These girls are most vulnerable, because now people will target them,” Koirala said. “They could be victims of any forms of sexual abuse. Maybe rape, maybe they will be trafficked, anything. … If I get more support I will take as many as I can.”

About five miles away, the wall of Koirala’s HIV/AIDS hospice has crumbled. Home to 115 girls, many of whom are terminally ill, the facility is under guard.

“They’re not injured, but they are terrified,” Koirala said. “Everything is broken in the hospice.”

Koirala’s group also has about a dozen other homes throughout the district, and all of them have been damaged.

“It’s really very sad for me and for my children,” Koirala said.

“This disaster, the noise and the way it shook, I cannot get over it. I was not afraid that I was going to be killed. I was afraid about what is going to happen next.”

A dream shattered

Another CNN Hero, Pushpa Basnet, and the 45 children she cares for were also forced to evacuate their residence. They are now living on the ground in a nearby field.

“Physically, we are not hurt. But mentally, we are,” said Basnet, whose Early Childhood Development Center provides a home and education to children whose parents are incarcerated.

Basnet says the building’s walls are all cracked, and the staff is afraid it might fall down.

She and the older children created a shelter using the frame of a greenhouse, taping plastic around the sides to protect themselves.

“It’s really cold in the middle of the night; there are lots of fox in the field,” Basnet said. “We are really scared.”

They also don’t have much water or food, Basnet says. But she is trying to stay positive.

“I think for the time being, whatever we have, we should be happy, you know? Because at least we have our life,” she said. “(My kids) all are safe. That’s the most important thing for me.”

Basnet’s “Butterfly Home” — the permanent residence she was building for the children — also suffered extensive damage in the quake. Basnet had hoped to complete construction in the next six months, with the opening ceremony set for October.

Basnet purchased the land for the home with prize money she received as the 2012 Hero of the Year.

“When the earthquake hit that land, all my dreams were scattered,” she said. “I have to restart again.”

Still, Basnet is quick to point out that so many other survivors have nothing and are desperately in need of aid.

Other CNN Heroes pitch in

To that end, several CNN Heroes are assisting in relief efforts in Nepal.

Jake Wood’s disaster relief organization, Team Rubicon, has a team of experienced veterans and first responders headed to Kathmandu this week. Volunteers include medical professionals who will join a reconnaissance team already on the ground.

Six canine-firefighter search teams from the United States are currently assisting in rescue and recovery efforts. The teams were trained by Wilma Melville’s National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and were deployed as part of a larger rescue force that includes structural engineers, hazmat experts and doctors.

Dr. Laura Stachel’s group, We Care Solar, has sent solar suitcases to health care workers, providing them with light and power as they aid survivors.

Tom Henderson’s ShelterBox, which provides emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies, has a response team on the ground that is meeting with other agencies to establish aid priorities. The group has already dispatched 500 shelter kits.

By Kathleen Toner and Christie O’Reilly


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