November 08, 2015
As the land trembled beneath my feet, people started running. In a few seconds the house in front of me collapsed, releasing a plume of smoke in the air. I thought the building I was standing near would bury me. I cannot express how horrifying this was.
When the ground stopped shaking, the streets filled with chaos. Some of us tried to get home to see our families. Others of us ran into the open spaces, away from anything still standing.
It was a Saturday when the earthquake struck Nepal. When I got home, I found my house, which I had grown up in, flattened to the ground. Thankfully, my family was not hurt. We went through the ruins of our house to salvage anything we could — ornaments, important documents, and tin sheets that we could reuse.
All the while I thought about my school, fearing it too was destroyed.
I hurried through the chaotic streets to see the school where I had spent so many years of my life, first as a student, then as a teacher and now as a librarian. I braced myself for the worst.
All my efforts to prepare myself were useless. My beloved school, which I had left intact yesterday, was gone. In its place was a pile of dust-covered desks and rocks. The blackboard where I had written yesterday’s lecture had a gaping hole down the middle, as if it had opened up and swallowed the lesson. As I wandered through the rubble I was overcome by a thousand questions: How will we overcome this? What will happen to our students and their futures?
To my surprise and utter joy, our library was still intact. My community had built it just last year with Room to Read’s support. They had used an earthquake-resistant design and I was now witnessing the profound difference this makes: the library was practically the only building left standing.
I thought back to when we inaugurated the library. It was one of the happiest moments at our school and our entire community had come together to celebrate. I was overjoyed to see the change in my students — not only were they excited to spend time in the bright room filled with colorful books, but the library was developing in them the habit of reading. Parents were also drawn to the library where they would check out books and read the newspapers.
Now we all came together again — this time to clear the rubble that was once our school. When we started our first school session a month later, following the government’s announcement, many students came. We spent the first few weeks under the open sky doing fun activities — singing, dancing and storytelling to assuage our students’ fears of the aftershocks.
With the support of the District Education Office and help from the community, we soon built a temporary learning center out of tin sheets. This gave our students a place to study and reconnect with the school. The additional books Room to Read distributed to all the affected schools were a big help too, since many of my students had lost theirs in the earthquake.
Now that several months have passed, I can say that we have seen hard times and we have overcome them. Room to Read has been instrumental in this, visiting us regularly to provide support and counseling. We had to stop our literacy instruction due to a lack of classrooms, but we are hopeful that we will be able to resume it once we get the support we need to rebuild our school.
We have lost many things but not our dreams. Thanks to education, the earthquake took away our school but not our resolve.
Raj’s story is one of a collection of inspiring stories we’re celebrating as we reach 10 million children. Read more in our special Impact Report, Thanks to Education.
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