Tulsi Paudel and the Guelph Nepalese Society make appeal for support of earthquake relief effort
May 13, 2015
UPDATE: A second major earthquake struck Nepal on May 12, after this story was written.
“Our hearts are broken…”
So said Tulsi Paudel, President of the Guelph Nepalese Society (GNS), during a candle-light vigil outside Guelph City Hall on April 27. All those attending were invited into council chambers, where Mayor Cam Guthrie dedicated the traditional moment of silence at the start of the council meeting to Nepal.
“My heart breaks to think of what everyone is going through at this moment losing their loved ones, their homes, and their city. These are very difficult times for Nepal. So much is gone. That UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization] World Heritage Site is gone”, he said, pointing to a large, colorful poster of spectacular Durbar Square that was displayed at the vigil.
On April 25, a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, originating just outside of the country’s capital Kathmandu. As of May 8, the death toll sits at over 8000, and many thousands are injured and homeless. But it’s not just the loss of lives and infrastructure that has had a devastating impact on Nepal. Several ancient sites–some as many as 1700 years old—that have global cultural and religious significance have been damaged or destroyed by the disaster. For a country that relies so heavily on tourism, the loss of this history may bring even more hardship.
Tulsi learned of the earthquake early on Saturday from another director of the Guelph Nepalese Society, Dipendra Khanal. “I totally panicked”, he said. “I checked Facebook for any updates from Kathmandu. My newsfeed was filled with disturbing pictures of the earthquake devastation. I started calling my family in Nepal, but no one answered. I was very worried. I shared the news with my wife and she started crying because her family lives in the capital city, where most of the destruction was. My niece’s wedding was scheduled for April 27th and my parents and relatives from outside of Kathmandu went into Kathmandu that same morning when the earthquake happened.” Eventually, thankfully, Tulsi and his wife found out that everyone was safe. “But I’m still not able to contact my own family. They are safe, but I still can’t reach them”, he said. (The interview for this story was done a full week after the quake and its aftershocks).
Tulsi, an extremely friendly, community-oriented Nepalese, arrived in Canada in 2011 with his wife, Sangita, and two children, Agraj and Agrim (now 10 and 5 years old). Originally they moved from Nepal to the United States in 2006, where Tulsi and his wife obtained graduate degrees, he in mathematics and statistics, and she in nursing administration. But the consequences of a decade-long civil war between Maoist insurgents and the government in Nepal caused them to seek out opportunities in other countries. They then applied for and were granted permanent residency in Canada as highly skilled workers. They landed in London, Ontario and then made their way to Guelph in the fall of 2012. Having connections in both London and Guelph made their moves easier to manage.
The Nepalese community in Guelph is growing rapidly. Consequently, Tulsi and another Nepalese man, Suraj Pandey, who arrived in Guelph at the same time, saw a need for Nepalese community members to be more organized to better plan events and programs. They proposed the idea to create the Guelph Nepalese Society to fellow Nepalese during Teej celebrations in 2013 (please see link for more information about this festival). The association was formally registered as a non-profit organization in 2014 and its main purpose is to “promote Nepalese heritage and culture in this multicultural country”.
The GNS’s directors offer the following services in addition to other cultural and community activities:
- They provide information on resources and life in Canada when contacted by Nepalese people who are considering moving here.
- They welcome Nepalese newcomers, even picking them up at the airport.
- They invite newcomers to stay in their homes temporarily while they seek housing, or sometimes even lease a house for newcomers before they arrive.
- They assist newcomers with obtaining identification and accessing other services.
Future plans include organizing classes to teach Nepalese children their own language, and to encourage young Nepalese to be more civically involved in their new community.
GNS members have begun raising funds to assist the recovery and reconstruction effort in Nepal, and are planning several special events. For more information, contact them at the email address at the end of this article. In addition, people can donate money to the Guelph Nepalese Society in the following two ways:
- In person at any TD Canada Trust branch: Account # 2500-5234110.
- Online through a Go Fund Me campaign.
The Society will hand all funds raised to the global Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), in coordination with Non-Resident Nepalis-National Coordination Council Canada (NRN-Canada). Money, said Tulsi, will be put towards water, medicines, and other essential items, as well as for reconstruction: “What we are raising will go directly to victims and families”.
For more information, contact Suraj Pandey, Finance Director of the Guelph Nepalese Society, at firstname.lastname@example.org