Ohioan Helps Nepali Earthquake Survivors

Ohioan Helps Nepali Earthquake Survivors

An old woman giggled as she struggled to blow up a bright pink balloon. She couldn’t get the funny little bubble of rubber to hold air. 

Wanda Lovely, a Baptist Global Response (BGR) volunteer, said she watched as a local volunteer taught the woman how to inflate her balloon. This was an important activity because—on that December day in Nepal—the little piece of rubber served as a therapy tool. 

“The thought behind all of it is: this is the same thing that goes on in our hearts,” she said. “You know, we carry these burdens and these pains and these worries and it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and finally, it just explodes. … You have to be able to share your thoughts before you explode.” 

Lovely, a member of Urbancrest Baptist Church in Lebanon, Ohio, traveled to Sindhuphalchok, Nepal, in mid-December with a team consisting of herself and two other volunteers. Susan Bryant and Joel Catron, both from Kentucky, joined her and helped a group of Nepali volunteers heal emotional and spiritual wounds inflicted upon locals after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the area. The disaster destroyed a large percentage of homes in two districts and killed thousands. 

During the trip, Lovely and Bryant helped BGR-trained Nepalis conduct therapy sessions for women and children while Catron, a member of the First Baptist Church of Monticello, Ky., addressed spiritual concerns with the men. The group traveled to a school and to various churches, offering comfort and facilitating emotional healing. Lovely, who mainly helped women, said she spent her time encouraging participants to get involved in various activities, such as the balloon blowing. Through these sessions, Lovely and the national volunteers wanted the women to share and deal with any unexpressed emotions they felt in the earthquake’s aftermath. This was important work, even though the earthquake had taken place months before. 

“You have to talk very little and listen a whole lot and allow people to express themselves within their own culture,” she said, adding, “In Nepal, you have to give women a framework [to express their feelings].” 

She said the games and questions provided that framework, allowing women to talk about heartfelt matters within a light and fun context. She believed the jobs she and Bryant performed filled a particular need for women and children—groups of people who don’t always have emotional outlets. 

Bryant, a member of Graefenburg Baptist Church in Waddy, Ky., said she served as the child counselor on the trip. She and another local volunteer led children through games involving balls or they blew bubbles. During the program, the kids also had opportunities to write about the disaster, delving into questions about where they were when it hit and how it made them feel. 

“This would be an opportunity for them to have playtime and for them to talk to other children and to discuss what happened—give them an opportunity to really decompress, I guess, after the earthquake,” she said. 

An elderly woman laughs as she blows up a balloon. She’s participating in a group therapy session for survivors of last year’s devastating earthquakes in Nepal. The balloon is part of an activity conducted by trained Nepali volunteers and by visitors from the United States.

Although both the women and children seemed to love the games and conversations, Lovely also believed the team impacted Nepali villagers by simply showing up. 

“When you go halfway around the world, you’ve already done a great deal to lift someone’s burden because just by default, your presence in their life says, ‘I care,’ because you didn’t show up by accident,” she said. “You went around the world to meet people who are desperate, and your only motivation is to be there to hear their story and to use whatever tools are at your disposal to help alleviate their pain and carry their burdens.” 

She also clearly remembered how Bible stories affected locals. Lovely said she acted out the story of the sick woman, told in the fifth chapter of Mark, who received healing from Christ merely by touching his robe. An old woman in the crowd cried. That biblical story of healing had given her hope. 

Anyone who wants to follow in the footsteps of this team and help other disaster survivors recover can easily volunteer through BGR. Email disaster@gobgr.org for more information. Or, visit www.gobgr.org/volunteer/requests to read about other ways to volunteer. 

  -- Lily Jameson 

Lily Jameson is a staff writer for Baptist Global Response. 
All photos provided courtesy of Wanda Lovely.