Volunteering runs in the family and through the community in Nepal

Sumana Dawadi comes from a family of Red Cross volunteers, so it is unsurprising that she became one herself. “I started volunteering in 2007, when I was 16,” she says. “My sister and my aunt were both Red Cross volunteers and I was so impressed. I took a basic first aid training, all kinds of training. You have to have a will to be a volunteer, a will to help other people.”

Throughout her training, earthquakes were a constant issue, something to be prepared widely. “I always told people about the need to be prepared and I learned that when you’re a volunteer, you can volunteer from the place you are, serving people in your community. That inspired me.”

The earthquake on 25 April devastated Kathmandu and many of the villages surrounding it. “After the earthquake, I thought ‘I am alive!’ so I went to volunteer, handing out water and helping with first aid,” Dawadi says. She worked for hours with her nephew and other volunteers. “We dug people out of rubble,” she says. “I am also a nurse so I had a lot of opportunities to help.”

As is often the case, Dawadi and her family were directly affected by the disaster. “The house just opposite of ours was destroyed. There was no network, no power, no phone, internet or electricity. We couldn’t find out about our family in Gorkha, we didn’t know if everyone was okay. I cried a lot that day.”

Going home

When she went back to Gorkha – her family’s home – Dawadi discovered a place utterly devastated by the earthquake. “It looked like the beginning of time,” she says. “There were no homes, just people. There was nothing left; everything was gone. I slept in a goat shed.” The days were unbearably hot, and the nights often brought torrential rain, and all the people in the goat shed moved around in the night so no one had to spend too long getting wet.

Back home, the hard work began. “I use to live with my grandmother. We were very close. She died at 102 and had 17 children. She taught me to be confident. She was not educated but she was the most intellectual person I knew,” Dawadi says. “She was my biggest inspiration. Red Cross is my second.

 ”When I wear the Red Cross as a volunteer, I am proud. People treat you differently; I think they are thinking good things about me.”

World Humanitarian Day 2015