How a Girl Scout put young women first after the Nepal earthquake

Rina Shrestha, 32, from Nepal, was at home with her family when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated parts of her country two years ago. One day later, she was on the ground in Kathmandu with her local Scout Group in Nepal, supporting survivors by distributing sanitary pads and providing counselling for children. Here, she reflects on the day that changed her country…

The day the Nepal earthquake struck is still etched in my mind.  

On Saturday April 25, 2015, I was at home, spending quality time with my husband and child. Suddenly I felt the table shake. When we realised it was an earthquake, my family and I ran outside.

The door was shaking, the wall collapsed. Outside, electrical poles were trembling furiously. My neighbours were huddled together, scared and frightened. Many were crying, including myself, as we didn’t know what to do.

All means of communication were destroyed. I remember desperately trying to contact my sister. She’d gone to the market early in the morning and when the earthquake struck, we heard rumours of mass casualties. When my sister finally arrived home later that night, everything felt different and I cried with happiness.

The memories from two years ago still affect me. For a long time I was worried about aftershocks. I was frightened to go inside, so my family and I slept outside under a tent made from a big plastic sheet. When we cooked or needed to use the bathroom, we’d fearfully venture inside, worried about another earthquake.

44 Nepal Scouts clearing the roads affected by quake at Kakani area near their International Training Centre.jpg Nepal Scouts/WAGGGS

Yet, I knew as part of the Nepal Scouts, it was my duty to help. The next day, I went to my local Scout office to try and make contact with my friends. Luckily, none of my fellow Scouts were injured, but many of their homes had collapsed or suffered damage.

We knew had to support the survivors, so the Nepal Scouts, in partnership with the local NGO I work for, Antardristidevised a plan to provide help to those in affected places.

I felt proud to provide support to those in need, no matter how small my contribution was. I collected masks, sanitary pads, water purifiers and gloves for distribution.

During disasters, girls and young women are often disproportionality affected, so I was keen to focus my efforts on their needs.

Rina Shrestha 2 Nepal Scouts/WAGGGS

The earthquake meant there was a severe shortage of water, making girls’ periods hard to manage. In Nepal, girls and young women normally use pieces of material in place of sanitary pads, so they can wash and reuse them. In the days after the earthquake there was little water, making it hard to manage menstruation. Distributing pads was a different and unique experience, providing a good, safe alternative for girls and young women.

In addition to distributing sanitary products, I set up child-friendly spaces and provided counselling training for school teachers, so they could support young people affected by the earthquake.

My fellow Scouts were integral in the immediate earthquake recovery, helping identify and connect with concerned teachers and authorities in affected areas, as well as distributing materials for training sessions.

Rina Shrestha 1 Nepal Scouts/WAGGGS

Two years on, our work continues with the support of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. I still provide counselling for children who lived through the earthquake, and I continue to support teachers so they can provide counselling too.

It is so important children have a safe space to recover in the midst of a disaster. I remember meeting a young boy who saw people die because of the earthquake. When he came to our child-friendly space, he was so upset, but with our support he is on the road to recovery – much like my country.

Two years on, we’re still trying to rebuild the affected areas of Nepal. Many of my friends and family haven’t been able to rebuild their homes, due to heavy rain and lack of money.  

However, I am committed to helping those in need, with the support of the Nepal Scouts and I am really proud of what we achieved. After all, helping others is what being a Scout is all about.

042015_nepal_earthquake relief operation

"The door was shaking, the wall collapsed. Outside, electrical poles were trembling furiously."

Rina Shrestha, Nepal Girl Scout
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