Janine Ybanez/HIGHLANDER
Janine Ybanez/HIGHLANDER

Over 150 members of the UCR community attended a candlelight vigil last Thursday to show support for the people of Nepal after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Asian country and other surrounding areas, resulting in more than 7,000 deaths and displacing over a million people who are still in need of food and shelter.

The vigil, hosted by the South Asian Federation (SAF) and Asian Pacific Student Programs (APSP) at UCR, gave students, staff and faculty a chance to learn more about the devastating earthquake, pay their respects and provide donations to help those affected.

SAF member Prianka Sharma said that because recovery periods are so long for most natural disasters such as the earthquake, coverage and additional aid tend to gradually fade. She felt that the vigil would help assist in combating that, especially in Nepal, saying that “a devastation like this stops (the country) from progressing into a developed one.”

ASUCR Marketing Director and Co-President of SAF Ravin Rathod agreed with Sharma on emphasizing aid, but acknowledged a different reason for possible insufficient aid, saying, “(On a political level), a lot of their international aid gets taken through government corruption or criminal activity so the biggest thing is making sure they get enough aid during this time.”

Those in attendance held candles as various people spoke about how this disaster has affected them. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Jim Sandoval was in attendance and stated, “because of our university’s diversity, our institution is deeply touched any time something happens across the world.”

Janine Ybanez/HIGHLANDER
Janine Ybanez/HIGHLANDER

In lieu of that, Nepal native and second-year UCR student Pranisha Gautum spoke about the good-natured spirit of the Nepalese people. “You all may have heard of the phrase ‘that he’d give you the shirt off his own back.’ Nepali people truly embody this phrase, but today we are the ones in need,” she said.

Gautum, raised in Nepal until the age of 13, shared how overwhelming it was seeing the effects of the earthquake on the news. “There were pictures of people being pulled out of the rubble, there were pictures of national monuments being totally destroyed, and that was really heartbreaking and devastating for me. Places I used to go to maybe on a school field trip or on a regular Saturday with my family are now ruined,” explained Gautum.

Community member and UCR agricultural post-doctoral researcher Raju Pandey, spoke about the earthquake’s effects in rural, often more inaccessible, areas and its impact on Nepalese farmers. Weak infrastructure has caused food and clothing to be contaminated by dirt and tarnished by fallen homes, explained Pandey. “My own sister is using a tent she was able to salvage as her source of shelter,” said Pandey.

Some community members are also taking the initiative themselves. Devi Charan Ghimire emphasized how he is using his local restaurant in Riverside to gather donations to send to Nepal. Ghimire explained that he was speaking to his brother in Nepal when the earthquake happened. After the conversation cut off, Ghimire was not able to contact his brother or other family for two days.

A donation box was provided at the vigil, allowing the UCR community to provide funds for relief efforts. Billy Caganap, director of Asian Pacific Student Programs and who played a crucial role in making the vigil possible, emphasized that “even a couple quarters or missing lunch one day to put toward relief efforts will go a long way.”

Further relief is being provided by other community members. SAF will be selling Pray for Nepal wristbands tentatively next Wednesday during Nooners while daily donations can be made to the Red Cross, which will be tabling every day at the Bell Tower.