By Press Office 14 May 2015

On Thursday 14th May, Humza Yousaf, Minister for Europe and International Development, gave his support to Queen Margaret University during an awareness day for Nepal.

Staff and students at the University held a series of fundraising events to raise cash which will support people affected by the devastating earthquake in Nepal.

The event will provide essential funds for Nepalese students who are currently studying at the University, and students at the University’s partner institution Silver Mountain School of Hotel Management in Kathmandu.

Many of QMU’s Nepalese students have families whose lives and homes have been devastated by the earthquake. Some have returned to Nepal to assist their loved ones and communities who desperately need access to food, shelter and supplies. Some graduates of QMU’s Institute for International Health and Development are applying everything they have learned whilst studying at the University, to help with the relief effort across Nepal. The University is aware of graduates who have walked for 10 days to deliver sacks of rice to mountain villages.

Keen to demonstrate solidarity with Nepalese friends, students and colleagues, Queen Margaret University’s staff held a series of events throughout the day to engage students, staff in fundraising efforts. The Minister for Europe and International Affairs was there to cut the starting cord at the beginning of a race around the campus. Yoga classes, cake runs and a quiz night provided a variety of different ways for people to engage with the awareness event. 

Humza Yousaf  said: “There has been no respite for the people of Nepal with another major earthquake hitting the region this week.  Our thoughts are with the friends, colleagues and family of all those affected. The efforts of Queen Margaret University to provide assistance in the face of the disaster, shows the best of Scotland’s compassionate spirit and I am happy to support their wonderful efforts.”

Oonagh O’Brien, Lecturer from QMU’s Institute for International Health and Development, explained: “We are hearing harrowing accounts every day from our friends and students in Nepal about the impact the disaster is having on their communities. It is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the catastrophe and to know how best to provide appropriate help, but everyone at the University has been keen to get involved and do something positive to support.”

She continued: “The University has also set up a Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund to allow people to make online donations and people are welcome to take part in our Quiz tonight which will be held in our Students Union on campus.

“However”, said Oonagh, “we are acutely aware that it will take a long time for Nepal to recover from the effects of the earthquake. Aside from fundraising, QMU is utilising its expertise in psychosocial support work which is very effective in helping communities recover from disaster. The University’s Institute for International Health and Development is involved in the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Network (MHPSS.net), an online facility which promotes better mental health through psychosocial and community support in humanitarian emergencies.”

Richard Bent, Senior Lecturer in Business, has helped organise the quiz night. He said: “Our collaboration with Silver Mountain School of Hotel Management in Kathmandu, where we deliver degree programmes in Hospitality and Tourism to over 150 students, means we have a deep empathy for the plight of our colleagues and students in Nepal. Silver Mountain’s grounds are now a safe haven for many orphan children and others who are using the facility as a source of shelter and food. Many of students and staff at Silver Mountain have been baking bread and running a soup kitchen to help the community.”

Richard continued: “Already, we have been overwhelmed with people who want to support our charity quiz night. We therefore have amazing prizes up for grabs and a fantastic raffle.”

Richard concluded: “The most important thing for everyone is that money raised from the quiz, or other events during the Awareness Day, will go directly to our students and staff in Nepal whose lives have been shattered by the effects of the earthquake.”

Donations can be paid into the Queen Margaret University’s Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund at http://www.qmu.ac.uk/alumni_and_friends/qmu-nepal-earthquake-relief-fund.htm

Read the personal story of Bimu Sharma, a Nepalese student at QMU, who had to watch at a distance as the disaster unfolded in Nepal. See case study below.

Student’s personal story

Nepalese case study – Watching the disaster unfold from a distance

Bimu Sharma is a Nepalese student who is studying with Queen Margaret University’s Institute for International Health and Development.

She comes from the Lalitpur district near Kathmandu, one of the areas worst affected by the earthquake. After news of the earthquake reached the UK, Bimu had an anxious wait, only hearing that her family were safe 12 hours after the earthquake struck.

Bimu, who is studying an MSc in International Health, is from the beautiful old town of Lalitpur. Much of the town was devastated by the disaster, but fortunately Bimu’s family narrowly escaped with their lives.

Bimu said ‘It was a very scary time. We could do little more than pray for their safety. Problems with phone networks added to the delay but I was relieved to finally find out they had survived. They had to stay in camp and were only allowed to return to their home to collect their belongings after nine days.

“However, their house is unsafe, so they are homeless and finding another place to live in the middle of such destruction, is extremely difficult.”

Naturally, Bimu has been very distressed about the effect on her family and community and the extensive loss of buildings in her once beautiful town. She explained: “Lalitpur means home of architecture and the area is famous for its old temples and monuments. Patan Durbar Square, where I was born, is destroyed. I feel that when I return home, nothing will be left.

“The mental condition of young children has really been affected. My brother, who is just 12 was so scared during the earthquake. He was shocked when he saw the house and scared to be in it because it was unsafe. He had viewed the most devastating moment of his life and my mother could not stop him crying. When I eventually managed to speak to him, he said that the places that we used to play - the temples and monuments – everything had been destroyed!”

The Lalitpur district, where Bimu enjoyed working with the project Saath Saath, has been devastated.  Saath Saath works to reduce HIV infection and improve sexual and reproductive health with hard to reach populations. Bimu said: “Many organisations now have no base. I’m not sure what situation my former colleagues are in, but many people have no homes, no place of work, and hospitals and medical bases are struggling to operate because their premises are in tatters. Parents have been killed, children are orphaned and food, shelter, medical supplies and basic care are hard to source.”

She said: “People watched helplessly as their homes and towns collapsed around them. Many have now been left fatherless, motherless or childless. It is absolutely heart-breaking to watch this catastrophic event unfold and be so limited for ways in which to help the people and communities that you love. Friends who graduated from QMU last year are trying to take food to their villages by walking for miles over mountainous terrain. They have collected rice and lentils to help feed those who have survived the earthquake but have been more than a week without any support or help.

“It is very difficult to watch these events at a distance, when you are safe in another country.  I felt so scared. All we could do when it was going on was hope and pray that our families were safe. But I am so heartened that my friends and staff at Queen Margaret University are coordinating a range of activities to raise much needed funds to help the victims of the earthquake. I’m also immensely proud that other graduates from QMU’s Institute for International Health and Development are already on the ground in Nepal helping to coordinate the rescue effort, especially in Ghorka and the badly affected central zone.”

Bimu concluded: “It’s going to be a long hard road, but every bit of support will help the Nepalese people slowly move forward and rebuild their lives.”

 

Notes to Editor

More information on the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Network (MHPSS.net) which involves experts from Queen Margaret University

The Institute for International Health and Development (IIHD) at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh is providing support for victims of the Nepal earthquake which has claimed the lives of nearly 9000 people so far. IIHD is involved through the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Network (MHPSS.net), QMU’s online facility which promotes better mental health and community support in humanitarian emergencies. More information at: http://www.qmu.ac.uk/marketing/press_releases/Queen-Margaret-University-Initiative-Providing-Support-for-Nepal-Earthquake-Victims.htm

MEDIA INFORMATION

For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E: lrussell@qmu.ac.uk T: 0131 474 0000, M: 07711 011239, or Jon Perkins, E: jperkins@qmu.ac.uk ; T: 0131 474 0000

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