The American Academy of Bereavement is pleased to share this informative excerpt from our summer edition of “The Stepping Stones Newsletter”.
“Hi Bobby, thank you so much for doing this interview on the tragedy in Nepal and the aftermath of the earthquakes along with your work. Can you give us a brief description on yourself and the work you do?”
“I started doing missions work in 1978 at 25 years old and I’ve been doing missions work for about 40 years. I’ve worked work in the Himalayan area, Nepal, Germany, England, Sudan, Iran, Indonesia, India, and Ethiopia. My main areas of focus have been Nepal, Tibet, and China. The missions organization I work with is International Outreach Ministries. I do missions and humanitarian work with Tibetan people. My humanitarian work includes building and maintaining places like literacy centers, helping them set up and run small goat farms, relief work and rebuilding from the earthquake, and working with Tibetan Christians to strengthen churches. My goal is to see more Tibetans come to faith and to see churches grow.”
“What is your personal description of the earthquakes and the scope of the tragedy in Nepal?”
“The first earthquake, the epicenter was northwest of Kathmandu. The ground shook sideways with that one. The second one was northeast of Kathmandu and the ground went up and down. It shook like you would shake a bottled drink. The first earthquake was a 7.8, the second was 7.3. There have been hundreds of earthquakes and aftershocks since. There was just one in the 5 point range. That was right in Kathmandu, people were scared on that one.
About 9,000 people were killed in the tragedy in Nepal. It easily could have been 50,000. Both quakes hit at the time of day that everybody in Nepal would be outside working farmland, etc. People weren’t in their homes at the time. That could have gone up many thousands more. Parts of Kathmandu don’t look like they were hit at all. Other parts, buildings are just down, three story buildings. There is one neighborhood that was just devastated. The whole area was literally devastated. It was extremely hit and miss. In the district called Gorkha, it’s estimated that up to 90% of the homes- it is a big district- are seriously damaged or down.
There is an area called Langtang. There were places in there that had avalanches where three story buildings were just covered up with mountains- whole mountains came down on villages. Hundreds upon hundreds of people were killed in that province. Because it’s going into their rainy season, the landslides have drastically increased because of all the loose rock. They have become very common and are much worse than usual. The home that I was renting is not livable anymore. My bedroom had a crack about an inch open and went from one side of my bedroom all the way to the other and all the way through it to the next room. There was a store, a two story grocery store, the thing was flattened like a pancake and that was a two minute walk from my house. I frequented that store every day. There were about five people inside the building that were killed. Also, a taxi cab was parked outside and the building fell on top of the taxi killing five others. I probably knew people inside the store that were killed but I haven’t been able to ascertain who they were.”
“How did the Nepali people deal with their grief?”
“When I arrived, people were in shock. It’s like being hit with a hammer and then two weeks later, the same hammer hits you again out of the blue. They were in major shock. The city was very subdued. By that time, a lot of people were trying to get out of Kathmandu to villages to see if their family was okay. There were a lot of people who weren’t there.
It’s really interesting, trauma is huge there right now. People are doing better now as it is a few months away from the big quakes. The small ones keep that trauma on edge. People are shell shocked. Many people whose houses weren’t affected, are still afraid to sleep in their houses. Fear really grabbed people. I’ve been in earthquakes before. Both of the earthquakes that created the tragedy in Nepal lasted over a minute. When the earth is shaking and the rooftops are collapsing, you feel helpless because you can’t run. Your balance is totally off. You can’t run. You just stay where you are, hoping the thing will stop shaking. Many people have a hard time sleeping at night.
One girl, it was so interesting to hear her story. When the earthquake hit, the first one, all she could think about was herself, how do I survive this? Afterward, she had to deal with a deep sense of shame because she just felt so selfish. She was so embarrassed and ashamed that she wasn’t thinking of other people. When the second one hit, she was much more prepared because she had really processed her feelings already.
The American Academy of Bereavement wishes to thank all of our members who, like Bobby Hill, are dedicated to bringing relief and hope to those suffering from grief, loss and major trauma after the tragedy in Nepal. We see demonstrated within this story that grief and loss come in many forms – the loss of loved ones, homes, livelihoods. This story resonates with the resiliency and power of people to band together, providing support and encouragement to those in need, regardless of the circumstances responsible for their loss.
To date, over $48,000,000.00 in cash has been donated internationally to aid the tragedy in Nepal in its recovery efforts. In addition, food, water, blankets, hygiene products, tents, tarps, solar lights, medical supplies and mobile medical centers have come in from all points of the globe. Recovery is estimated to take years and cost hundreds of millions dollars. Potential long term challenges that may be recognized in the after effects of the quakes include extended mental health and medical needs, labor costs and availability of workers, loss to tourism, predictable disasters with monsoon seasons, and soaring private and public debts.
To read the full interview with Bobby, sign into your member account and head to our “News” section. If you are not a member of The American Academy of Bereavement, learn more about our membership options here.