Australia's Nepalese community rallies to help families devastated by the earthquake.
Thursday June 4, 2015
Sojen Pradhan. Photo courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.
When the first big earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April, Sydney-based university lecturer Sojen Pradhan was terrified for his mother's life.
"I was speechless when I heard the news because my mum could have been in our old family home in Bhaktapur, a city in the Kathmandu valley" Sojen says.
"On the second day, I managed to find out through other relatives that she was actually ok and with my older brother in another town, Lalitpur."
Thousands of Nepalese community members in Australia have experienced similar fear and sorrow when the news broke of the earthquake. This has led many to help Red Cross efforts in Nepal.
You can help too - please donate now to the Nepal Region Earthquake Appeal.
Sojen and his wife Elina have lost their homes, including the house in which he was born in Bhaktapur. "Family homes on both our sides are in unliveable conditions and need to be demolished.
"My first cousin injured his leg badly. He was buried under the rubble but managed to pull himself out. From my wife's side of family, a couple had their legs broken with multiple fractures."
Being far away from home at this time was incredibly painful for Sojen. "When the second big earthquake hit, 12 May, I was very emotional and found it difficult to talk to other people. Especially when they inquired about my family, I was in tears."
Sojen worked hard to raise funds for the Red Cross Nepal Region Earthquake Appeal via social media, his work and local community in Sydney. These efforts have been reflected across the country. Nepalese community members have been holding candlelight vigils, auctions for restaurant meals, festivals, school bake sales and telethons.
Sojen has a long history with Red Cross. Before he left Nepal to call Australia home, Sojen volunteered with Nepal Red Cross for many years.
"I activated the Red Cross branch at Bhaktapur, which was not running at the time, in early 1990s. I gathered local friends together to get the branch going again. We did a lot of work, distributing disaster relief packages in villages after floods and we ran blood donation programs."
Since he has been in Australia, Sojen has also volunteered with Australian Red Cross to support disadvantaged young people and older people. "The level of satisfaction from volunteering cannot be compared with anything else. I feel I can make a difference to other peoples' lives. I always called this 'food for heart'."
Sojen has been overwhelmed by the generosity of communities and Nepalese people in Australia. "There has been a fantastic response from the Nepalese Australian community. But I believe, more can be done. The younger generation have been very active with latest technology, helping each other and have joined hands to rebuild Nepal."