Hundreds gather at vigil for Nepal

Corrections: The title of the father of a victim of the earthquake was incorrect. He was a teacher of Bikash Manandhar. 

The name of the organization members of NSA went to to get registered was incorrectly stated in an earlier version of this article. The organization was the Student Organization Center. The Mercury regrets these errors.

Hundreds of students and community members gathered at the Plinth on April 30 for a candlelight vigil hosted by the Bangladeshi Student Organization, the Nepali Student Association and UNICEF at UTD  to remember those lost in the Nepal earthquake.

The 7.8-magnitude quake, which struck around the capital of Kathmandu on April 25, has left over 6,000 dead and around 14,000 injured according to the World Health Organization.

Bikash Manandhar, a chemistry graduate student and member of NSA, said he was talking to his mom 15 minutes before the quake struck. He said he saw on Facebook that there was an earthquake and he tried to call back home to reach all of his family and friends, but nobody picked up.

When he saw pictures of the collapsed Dharahara Tower, one of Nepal’s most famous landmarks, he said he thought it was a joke. Once more of those images started to show up, however, he said he started to get scared.

“That tower has been there for centuries and it collapsed,” he said. “God knows what happened elsewhere in other parts of the city. We could not get a hold of our family and friends. It was very scary.”

Even though Manandhar was able to eventually confirm that all of his loved ones were safe, he still still had connections to some of the victims. He said the son of one of his high school teachers died when the school fell on top of him.

“I was so shocked,” he said. “I never thought that this might happen to this guy, but he’s gone. I tried to memorize back home when I used to talk to him and how he was, all those kind of things. Until it happens to you, you cannot really feel it.”

After the quake, Manandar said he and several other Nepalese students went to talk to the Student Organization Center to try to get the NSA registered as an official student organization, which had been trying to get recognized for several years.

NSA president Nikesh Chapagain said the clubs application had failed to get approved until one of the members got upset at the SOC over how long it was taking to form the club after the earthquake.

“I guess that morning one of our members got really mad because he was like, ‘We should have NSA at this time. A tragedy like this is  happening, this is when we need it,'” he said. “So he went in and he talked to them. Soon after the meeting with them they approved us.”

The group then joined with BSO and UNICEF at UTD to plan the event after word was spread that all three had planned on doing separate activities to raise support for earthquake relief.

President of BSO Sabiha Sultana said the earthquake resonated with her even though she does not have any direct ties to Nepal. She said the club wanted to help with the vigil since it already has a reach on campus.

“I felt that the reason we’re having this vigil is that BSO had the numbers to push this and get as much money as possible for these people,” she said. “It just broke my heart. I don’t think it’s any personal ties or anything like that. It’s just devastating to see that (destruction.)”

The vigil featured speeches and musical performances by students and community leaders. Bhuwan Acharya, the president of the Nepalese Society of Texas, was one of the keynote speakers at the event.

Acharya, whose daughter and extended family lives in Nepal, said the situation on the ground is still bad. His family is currently living in a tent because their house has cracks in it from the earthquake.

“People were living in tents with no food for a couple of days and things like that,” he said. “There’s a scarcity of food, medicine and first aid.”

He said the NST has been overwhelmed with money and donations from the community and has been able to send 15 volunteers, including six nurses and one doctor, to Nepal.

Acharya said he was amazed by the response he saw at the vigil.

“People have come for the prayers and people are donating,” he said. “They have shown support to the Nepalese students who have organized this at UTD … It’s great. We not only need dollars, we also need prayers.”

Organizers collected $2,152 from the event for relief efforts in Nepal.

Rahul Thakkar, a neuroscience junior and president of UNICEF at UTD, said the vigil did more than just raise money.

“More than the awareness, it’s also about hope and how anyone can come together to provide such a movement to collect donations and to support Nepal,” he said. “If a bunch of graduate and undergraduate students can do it in less than a week, I’m sure companies can do much more than us.  Basically it’s showing the community that, “Hey, you can do this too. You can get together with others. You can empower each other and you can support Nepal.'”

You can donate to relief efforts to Nepal in the link below:

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