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Nepal

In Nepal, twin sisters who survived two earthquakes try to regain their lives

By Mariana Palavra

For children living in a tent camp for families displaced by Nepal’s two recent earthquakes, a UNICEF-supported child-friendly space helps bring back a bit of joy, as they wait to get back to school.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Nepal/2015/Sokol
Ganga and Jamuna (front left and right) with their mother, father and 4-year-old brother, Anju, at what was their home.

CHARIKOT, Nepal, 3 June 2015 – Ganga Nepali, 9 years old, combs her long hair in the middle of a camp for displaced persons in Charikot, headquarters of Nepal’s Dolakha district. Although she looks shyly at the floor, she firmly declares that she is the eldest of three siblings.

“I have a special sister, but I am the older one,” she says. By ‘special’, she means twin.

“It is true – she was born a few seconds before me,” Jamuna, Ganga’s twin sister, says confiendently. “She is indeed my older sister, but I take care of all of them.”  

Fear

Jamuna was at home with her siblings and mother when the first earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April, and she took control of the situation: “I told them not to worry and advised them to get out of the house as soon as the earth stopped shaking,” Jamuna recalls.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Nepal/2015/Sokol
Tents line a hillside in Charikot where families are now living after losing their homes.

Less than three weeks later, when the  country was hit by a second earthquake, with the epicentre just 15 km from Charikot, Jamuna was at her friend’s house.

“I was so afraid. I thought the house would collapse,” she says. She remembers thinking she could die and her parents were not there.

Jamuna found her mother, her twin and younger brother safe and alive, but their father was missing.

“When he finally showed up, seven hours later, I felt such happiness,” she says with a smile. “I had so many emotions running through my head that I couldn’t even talk!”  

That night was spent outside, in one of the city’s tent camps. “I was so afraid that I couldn’t eat or sleep,” Ganga says. “I held my sister’s hand all night long, fearing and sweating at every aftershock.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Nepal/2015/Sokol
Jamuna sings along with other children at the child-friendly space set up in the camp.

Laughter

Since then, Ganga and Jamuna have been living in a tent and attending the camp’s UNICEF-supported child-friendly space.

One of the volunteers working at the space is Kuisang Rumba, an actor famous from Nepali music video clips. He teaches his dance moves while making music with his lips. The strange sounds and moves make the children break out in laughter.  

Jamuna is the first to join him and repeat his choreographed moves, while Ganga watches and laughs shyly.

“On the first day, many of these children were shy, afraid of everyone and were mostly passive,” Kuisang says. “However, after three or four theatre and dance sessions, most of them start to participate, to interact and to join me in my funny moves.” 

Ganga enjoys her time at the child-friendly space, but she wants her old life back.

“I miss my school and my best friend,” she says. “But I don’t know where she is right now. I haven’t heard any news about her since the second earthquake.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Nepal/2015/Sokol
Nepalese actor Rumba is a volunteer at the child-friendly space. Jamuna joins him in a dance.

Jamuna is concerned about the earthquake’s emotional impact on her sister. As she keeps repeating, she is “taking care of all of them” – her twin, her 4-year-old brother and her mother. 

Jamuna has many dreams to fulfill, and she can’t wait to go back to school.

I like singing, dancing and playing at the child-friendly space, but now I feel bored. I want to write and read. I miss the past,” she says. “I heard that being a scientist is a good thing. So I want to study hard and do that in the future.”

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Photo essay: Jamuna and Ganga [Medium]


 

 

UNICEF Photography: After the quake

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