The days following the deadly Nepal earthquake have been intense and exhaustive for Bishnu Adhikari.
More than 7,000 are confirmed dead and thousands more are injured and homeless. Much of the region near the quake's epicenter has been reduced to rubble.
Yet Adhikari, a humanitarian known for his profile in the 2014 film "Meet the Mormons," is full of gratitude and optimistic for the future.
“It’s a difficult situation but I am not discouraged,” Adhikari said late Thursday night via video chat from his home in Kathmandu. “I know life has ups and downs. Sometimes we go through these situations for our personal learning. I am grateful I am here and will do whatever I can in my capacity. There are so many things to be grateful for.”
Adhikari said he and his family, along with an estimated 70 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were watching a session of the 185th Annual General Conference in a chapel last Saturday when the walls began shaking. People ducked under chairs or sought other means of protection as the quake continued for almost a full minute.
When the 7.8-magnitude earthquake was over, the people left the chapel and retreated to a fairly safe area where nothing would fall on them. There they began singing hymns like “Come, Come Ye Saints” and “The Spirit of God.” The music calmed many troubled hearts, Adhikari said.
“Wow, what a comforting spirit,” Adhikari said. “My mind started thinking about a relief plan and how we could help others.”
Constant aftershocks continued to rattle the people for days. With homes gone or damaged, many, including Adhikari’s family, slept outside in somewhat cold temperatures for a few days. Fortunately, their home didn’t sustain major damage, and the Adhikaris were able to move back in and use their food storage and other supplies.
Most of those first days were spent locating people and coordinating with authorities on how to help others get shelter, water and food. Only one telephone system functioned for the first two days, and it wasn’t accessible to many of the remote villages, so it was difficult to communicate with people, Adhikari said.
Adhikari and his 12-year-old son, Jeev, ventured out to find their home teaching families and see to their needs. Many other home and visiting teachers did the same.
“It’s been a good effort from everybody to help each other,” said Adhikari, who said there are about 155 Mormons in Nepal. “But we are so spread around the city and some areas are not as accessible. We had to connect with somebody else in that area and ask them to check the status of those people.”
In the last week, Adhikari has been touched by an outpouring of love and support from people around the world, many of whom are familiar with him through "Meet the Mormons."
“Wow, my Facebook page and emails are filled. All I could write was two words — 'safe' and 'thanks,’ ” Adhikari said. “I don’t have time to answer all the emails, but I’m very grateful that people all around the world, from different walks of life and different faiths, have contacted and expressed sorrow and support for us and this people. Please convey my gratitude to each one.”
Adhikari said he will continue to assist in coordinating relief efforts with the Red Cross, the LDS Church, the government in Nepal and Choice Humanitarian, a Utah-based nonprofit organization where he is the in-country director. He will also participate in the rebuilding process.
While the death and destruction have been tragic, Adhikari hopes for safer structures, better long-term planning by the government and greater unity among the ethnic communities of Nepal. He hopes people will turn their hearts to Heavenly Father in this time of need. Most of all, he hopes to help as many people as he can.
“It’s a daunting task," he said. "There are many reasons to complain and blame others, but I am not in that game. I don’t want to waste my time. I believe in the story of the starfish and making a difference for as many individuals as possible. That is what I’m trying to do.”
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