In its April 29 edition, the North Shore News (our North Vancouver newspaper) published an article about the terrible earthquake in Nepal, following up on some North Vancouver connections to people there. It is indeed a very small world, criss-crossed with a network of global connections. And despite these strong links, it is in the face of disaster that we are reminded how truly vast this world is. It is easy to feel helpless, but our "village" of J4J supporters has stepped up to help. Onward.
Two North Vancouver residents — both in their 20s — have got word to their families back home they are safe, despite being in the area of Nepal where a 7.8-magnitude earthquake Saturday created widespread damage and resulted in several thousand deaths.
Paul and Helena Burritt of North Vancouver got an early-morning phone call from their daughter Victoria Burritt, who is in Kathmandu with the Youth with a Mission church group, based in Hawaii.
Most members of the group were out in more open areas of the city when the earthquake hit.
“She said it was really scary. There was a lot of confusion about what to do and what not to do,” said Helena Burritt.
The house where the group was staying did sustain some damage in the quake, so they moved to a nearby schoolyard for temporary safety.
Now the group is trying as best they can to offer help to the local residents, said Burritt.
The death toll in Nepal was officially at 4,600, but still climbing Tuesday.
“She said it’s horrible. It’s just devastation everywhere. There are places she went by that are just rubble. There are small towns that are totally obliterated,” said Burritt.
Burritt said while many foreigners are trying to leave Nepal now, the mission group plans to stay. When they spoke on the phone, Burritt said her daughter told her, “They need us more than ever.”
Three days of worry also recently ended for North Shore mother Daphne Page when she got a message that her son — 27-year-old Sam Graham — was also safe.
The Argyle secondary graduate had recently been volunteering at a school in India, said Page, and headed to Nepal to fulfill a dream of trekking the Annapurna Circuit.
Page said she had word from her son on Thursday when “he was two days out of Kathmandu.” Page said she was listening to the radio early Saturday morning and heard about the earthquake. “I said, ‘Oh my God.’”
Page said she tried to get information from the Canadian consulate but “it was completely useless.”
Eventually she resorted to an online message board and got word back from another family, telling her Graham is safe with a group of other trekkers in the village of Mandang.
“I’m giving some money to the Red Cross,” she said. “From what I can gather, the worst is yet to come.”
That’s something North Vancouver resident Elizabeth Leboe is also very concerned about.
Leboe and her husband Len operate Jackets for Jasper, importing jackets made by a family-run operation in Kathmandu. Money from the business pays for the education of two Nepali children, whose families the couple met during a two-month trek in Nepal in 2011.
Leboe said she has spoken to Rajan, the man who runs the home-based factory where the jackets are made. Families of three of his workers are safe, but “they’ve all lost their homes,” said Leboe.
“Rajan’s street has five houses that are down, and they’ve taken down water and power lines,” she said. “Everyone is sitting under these giant waterproof tarps.”
Leboe said she has been collecting donations and intends to help the Nepali people however she can.
Rajan has been charging up his cellphone with an old car battery, she said, but added she expects communication to become increasingly difficult.
The Canadian government has announced it will send $5 million in immediate aid to Nepal. The federal government has also pledged to match donations made to registered Canadian charities that are raising funds for victims of the earthquake.
Some of those include the Red Cross, UNICEF, Medecins Sans Frontiers, World Vision, Save the Children, Oxfam and CARE Canada.
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