After a disaster, many of the injuries people suffer may not be physical. For this reason the Nepal Red Cross Society relies on hundreds of psychosocial support volunteers such as Pabitra Basnet.
Six months after the Nepal earthquake, people still cope with invisible wounds, says Pabitra Basnet, a Nepal Red Cross Society volunteer and trainer in first aid and psychosocial support.
“It’s not just fear of aftershocks. People face lots of problems now because of rebuilding, like financial difficulties. Life was better before. Pupils lost many days of school because schools were closed and so life is still stressful.”
One way to help is to listen without judgment, says the nursing student from Lalitpur near Kathmandu.
“Some people believe the earthquakes are a sign the world is going to end. We say, ‘Everything has an end. Everything dies. The world will end one day. But we have to take good care of ourselves while we’re alive. We don’t know when there will be another big earthquake or other problems so we need to maintain our strength.’.”
Psychosocial support is part of the Nepal Red Cross’ earthquake response operation. Other priorities for health are rehabilitating damaged health posts so people in remote areas can access health care, training national health staff to respond to small disasters, and community health, which includes nutrition, immunization, reproductive health and first aid.
Pabitra knows volunteering can take a toll so she takes care of herself too, by reading, relaxing with music, walking, debriefing with friends and simply accepting that bad things happen.
“It’s an earthquake. People die. That’s the reality. I can’t do anything to stop an earthquake. I want to feel for the person and help but I should not be destroyed by the pain.
“My country went through this massive disaster. I can’t sit in a corner and cry or just worry about the situation. I need to be positive and help people and help myself.
“It makes me feel like I’m not working. I love listening to people and being there for them, it just makes me feel good.”