In the wake of a devastating earthquake in Nepal, the Madison area Nepali community gathered together for a candlelight vigil Wednesday to commemorate victims and raise relief funds.
The Nepali American Friendship Association along with the University of Wisconsin’s Nepal Student Association hosted the event, where Nepali and other community members joined together in prayer and reflection for victims.
One of those in attendance who spoke publicly at the vigil, Sweta Shrestha, a Nepali-American who works at UW’s Global Health Institute, said she was glad to see a diverse crowd show up to support and connect with her Nepali community.
“It really restores my faith in humanity,” Shrestha said.
She said the last few days have been difficult since much of her extended family and friends are still in Nepal. To cope, she said she formed a close relationship with social media to update herself on the latest news from the region. In addition to dependence on social media, she said she has a strong support system in Madison.
She said all of her family survived the earthquake with only minimal structural damage to their homes, but said some of her friends there were not so lucky.
“I have a couple friends who are tour guides who lost everything,” she said. “They lost their homes, they lost their land and because of their profession they lost their businesses, too, because tourism has come to a standstill.”
She said she came to the vigil because while she wants to believe everything will be okay for those in Nepal, she knows nothing is certain. She said joining with others at the event allows their community to do something real to aid people in the wake of a disaster.
Beside the vigil, another example of the Madison community supporting Nepal is the work of Himal Chuli restaurant on State Street.
Sergio Gonzalez, an employee at the restaurant, said they are promoting the non-profit American Hindu Association, which is raising money in Madison to send to Nepal. Gonzalez said the funds will go directly into the hands of people who need it.
He said the Nepali people who work in the restaurant are also sending supplies such as food and blankets to their family members who have been affected.
Parwat Regmi, a UW senior majoring in geoscience whose family still lives in Nepal, said he along with other members of the tight knit Madison Nepali community came to the vigil to pay tribute to those in Nepal coping with homelessness in light of the earthquake.
“All of my family is back home,” he said. “We actually had contact with them just a couple days after the earthquake itself, so that was relieving to hear from them.”
Regmi said with regard to relief efforts, he hopes to see funds first address food, clean water and proper sanitation.
NAFA recommends donating to the American Red Cross, Sarvodaya USA and Help Nepal Network for those who wish to contribute to relief efforts.
Before the crowd blew out their candles and went on their way, they reflected once more on the efforts ahead.
“As they’re feeling left out and abandoned, we want to be there for them,” Shrestha said.