On the ground in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu, the urgency and desperation of those living in the region is acute-and in some places, desperate. Thousands of people have no homes to return to, no food, no water and no way to get supplies they desperately need.
It’s a situation that is repeated over and over again in Nepali towns and villages days after a massive earthquake on Saturday destroyed much of the infrastructure in a country that was already one of the poorest and least developed nations in the world.
While a few stores are open, the shelves are pretty bare.
Still, Chabad is able to restock on some basics like rice flour and fresh produce, according to David Karsenty, a native of Paris, who has been in Kathmandu helping Rabbi Chezky and Chani Lifshitz, co-directors of Chabad of Nepal, since just before Pesach.
Rabbi Yehuda Rose, who came to help with disaster relief after the quake, adds: “The ingredients are very basic, and we understand that we need to do what it takes to make sure these people have at least pita and dal bhat [a lentils-and-rice local food staple] to feed their families.”
To help their neighbors, Chabad set up a food stall on Wednesday in a particularly improvised area and began handing out food to anyone who was there. Some 200 men, women and children quickly lined up for bowls of warm sustenance, which was distributed by Israeli tourists staying at the Chabad House. The sheer joy on people’s faces as they took the food was infectious, describes those close to the situation; it also gave the volunteers a feeling of accomplishment and empowerment knowing that they were helping others.
“The whole time, they didn’t stop saying ‘thank you,” and ‘please, please bring more foodtomorrow,’ ” Karsenty recounts, adding that they will indeed go back tomorrow.
“It’s an amazing experience helping people,” he says. “But when you hear the number of victims and see the burning bodies in the street, you understand this is not a joke.”
All of this activity comes as the Lifshitzes continue to feed the dozens and dozens of Israelis who are still making their way down from the mountains and villages, and finding respite at the Chabad House.
Chabad estimates that it prepared nearly 2,000 meals on Wednesday and will make more for Thursday. They are also organizing food aid to be sent on motorcycles to outlying areas.
“They come back weak, tired and very hungry,” says Chani Lifshitz on Facebook. “We are constantly bringing huge pots of food out of the kitchen. Now are spreading out sleeping bags and blankets arranging places for the few hundred [people] to sleep.”
To help with the earthquake relief effort, visit the special relief fund page: www.Chabad.org/Nepal.