I met Prabad Bushel on the streets of Gongabu, one of the most densely populated and destroyed areas of Kathmandu. With toppled temples, twisted building and piles of rubble, the familiar streets I remember from my three and half years of living in Nepal, suddenly seemed so foreign.
Prabad noticed the bright orange shirts of our IsraAID team assessing the damages and quickly ran up to tell us that his mother and two sisters were buried somewhere under the rubble. When he realized I spoke Nepalese, he continued to explain that hadn’t left the site since the earthquake and was still very hopeful. He stuck by our side and was with out question, the most passionate and persuasive 14 year old that I have ever met.
We saw more people on the same block sifting through debris with their bare hands. They told us that many family members were still trapped as well. Exactly 22, in fact. One by one we were told the names of each missing loved one.
Luckily, IsraAID’s team has grown in the last 36 hours to include 15 Search and Rescue (SAR) experts from Israel. An eclectic mix of trained and talented men and women who dropped everything – for one purpose – ‘to lend a hand’. Within moments of landing, the entire team headed from the tarmac straight to the field.
Eran Magen, Head of IsraAID’s SAR team, with over 20 years of experience, shared some of the tricks of the trade. He reminded everyone of the dangers and the necessary safety precautions. There was painstaking work ahead of us, but the team was clearly up for the challenge, including Prabad, who jumped in to help.
In close coordination with the local authorities, a community of volunteers quickly grew to 100 solid workers. Each person, an important link in the human chain, helped clear away buckets of debris and rubble from the wreckage. At least 200 more people gathered around us, patiently waiting for any sign of life- missing relatives, friends and neighbours.
But suddenly, everything stops.
The pick, shovels and drills are laid to rest. Eran’s technique switches to one of a skilled archaeologist, carefully chiseling and delicately brushing away the dirt and dust.
We found the body of Prabad’s 9 year old little sister, Maya.
Shocked and shaken, Prabad ran to his father nearby, embraced him and sobbed.
“Yo Mero Manchhe Ho!’ he tells him. “It’s our family member!”
This is a moment I will never forget.
And then, several minutes later, with his chin held high, Prabad returned as though to console us. He insisted that although his family’s hope was lost, they were still one of the lucky few who now had some closure. They could begin an important spiritual processes of mourning.
Prabad was my hero of the day.
• • •
On the ride back to our home base, exhausted and drained from another difficult day, I thought of only Maya.
Maya, such a popular name back in Israel with Hindu and Hebrew origins.
Maya, an ‘illusion’ and Goddess from Hindu mythology, a ‘spring’ or ‘brook’ derived from the Hebrew word ‘Maayan’.
Maya, Maya, the soft chorus of a classic Hebrew song about a father’s sweet lullaby for his sleeping daughter.
Sweet dreams little Maya.
Over the next few weeks, IsraAID emergency teams will focus on search and rescue efforts, medical relief and psycho-social care.
To Support IsraAID’s Earthquake Relief in Nepal: