"When I Close My Eyes, I Hear People Crying": A Young Nepali Woman on Life After the Earthquake

Urmila Chaudhary, 23, is a former kamalari (child servant) in Nepal. She was in Kathmandu when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake destroyed the city. Here, the Plan International ambassador recounts her terrifying tale.

Just before noon on a random Saturday last month, my hotel room suddenly started to shake. I thought someone was having a fight next door, but the shaking didn't stop, and got worse, and kept getting stronger.

When the world was finally still again, my friends and I made our way outside. As we walked through the crowd, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. Monuments had toppled to the ground and I could see people injured and dying. Many had cuts all over their bodies—a sight that still haunts me today.

My friends and I tried to move to another hotel, but the aftershocks continued. Together we decided to make our way to safer ground.

We were joined by droves of others. Some had lost their homes, others had lost their family members. Everyone was seeking safety.

There were babies only two or three days old with little clothing to keep them warm. Girls who were menstruating had no supplies and nowhere to clean themselves up. There was no toilet or bathroom—and certainly no privacy.

My family lives some 10 hours away from Katmandu, and I desperately wanted to check if they were okay. But the earthquake had knocked out all cell service, so I could do nothing but worry.

After the first night of sleeping out in the cold, my friends and I moved to a piece of land that belonged to someone I knew. There we found a toilet. It was shared between 35 of us, but it was better than nothing. At night, we couldn't sleep because we feared constant aftershocks. All around me, young girls were worried about their safety as they had to sleep amongst strangers. When it started to rain, we shivered. It was so cold in Kathmandu, and so dark.

After three days, I decided to try and make my way back to Dang, the village where I live. I managed to contact my family, who was thankfully safe. I desperately wanted to see them. I missed them so much.

The bus journey home was arduous. Usually it takes 10 hours—this time it took 22. Everyone wanted to escape Kathmandu and the bus was packed; there was nowhere to sit and nothing to eat. Food prices have shot up and a bottle of water costs four times the normal price.

I am nearly home now, but it hasn't been easy. Interestingly, at this time when my country's entire population is in turmoil, I find myself worrying about the girls who have lived through this earthquake—about their safety and their sanity. Like many of the ones I talk to, I am unable to sleep. When I close my eyes I dream about what happened. I hear people crying and I see dead bodies.

Together with children's charity Plan International, I am dedicated to helping the young girls in Nepal overcome this experience—they are injured, they have lost their houses, and what they have lived through is terrifying. I can only hope the world becomes a safer—and more solid—place for them now.

To support Plan International's ongoing efforts to aid children and families in Nepal,
click here

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