Nepalese student reaches out after major earthquakes rock his country

Suresh Kandel sitting in front of a monument.

In addition to lives, Nepal’s earthquakes have destroyed some of the country’s rich cultural heritage. Here UW-L student Suresh Kandel is pictured at one of the monuments at Bhaktapur Durbar Square that was recently destroyed by the earthquakes.

When back-to-back earthquakes stuck Nepal April 25 and May 12, UW-La Crosse international student Suresh Kandel was half a world away studying and taking final exams at UW-L.

His family was in Kathmandu, Nepal — leaving their home in fear of more aftershocks from the earthquakes.

“They are in great psychological stress,” says Kandel. “I am really frustrated about their situation as well as the ongoing impact on many Nepalese people.”

As subsequent tremors continue, Kandel laments that he can do nothing physically for his family or home country because of the distance. But he is working to raise money and spread the word about the earthquakes that have collectively taken about 8,500 lives and destroyed the homes of more than a half million people.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck 85 miles east of Kathmandu April 25. The other — a 7.3 magnitude earthquake — occurred near Mount Everest May 12. Aftershocks have continued throughout Nepal.

Although no one in Kandel’s immediate family was injured, he has heard stories from them of the extreme destruction and tragedy. A friend of his who is volunteering in one of the worst-hit areas, the Sindhupalchok district, said the situation there seemed hopeless. The vast majority of homes had collapsed, dead bodies were everywhere and some people had lost limbs, but had no medical help.

“They were waiting for relief, but many locations are in remote areas without access to roads,” says Kandel.

Meanwhile, international efforts are mounting to help Nepal’s government bring relief to the country. Initially, that relief came slow. The country’s infrastructure is weak and it was not prepared for this large of a natural disaster, says Kandel. Access to help those in rural areas continues to be a challenge, he says.

Nepal is an impoverished country with long-term political unrest, explains Kandel. Prior to the earthquakes, the country was in the process of drafting a new constitution. Now, with a serious natural disaster to cope with, that development will be slowed, he says.

“It will take so long to rebuild and bounce back,” says Kandel. “But I hope due to the solidarity in Nepalese people, they will work hard and will be able to make a new Nepal where people have good access to basic human needs and prosperous lives.”

Kandel has no immediate plan to return to Nepal. He is working to raise awareness about all of the help that is needed. Kandel volunteered for the Nepal Social Service Fund Foundation May 12 at the La Crosse Center. The non-profit organization, based in Minnesota, is helping Nepal earthquake victims.

He has also given funds to the Nepal Earthquake Fund — Med students. His nephew, a medical student at UT Southwestern Medical Center, will be helping earthquake victims with funds generated from the fund at the end of August.

Kandel also donated to Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO), the Nepal’s best tertiary eye care center. TIO is working to support victims by donating tents, foods and medical facilities. Kandel was a microbiologist for TIO for two years before coming to UW-L.