Last month

Central Albertans help to rebuild a battered country

Beverly Williams was in a hotel room in Nepal when the swaying began. It wasn’t totally unexpected because she’d felt some building movement triggered by the construction next door. But there were no workers at their jobs this time.

Beverly Williams was in a hotel room in Nepal when the swaying began.

It wasn’t totally unexpected because she’d felt some building movement triggered by the construction next door. But there were no workers at their jobs this time.

“I’m thinking it’s moving and nobody’s working right now — what’s happening?

“Then, all of a sudden, the room is moving.”

Williams quickly made her way outside where others were gathering, alarmed at what turned out to be the effects of an earthquake in far-away Burma. The last time Williams had felt an earthquake in Nepal, it was much closer, devastatingly stronger, and almost took her life.

Her guide, Har, a man who became a close friend, helped walk her to safety amid the destruction caused by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on April 25, 2015. The devastating natural disaster killed 9,000, injured 23,000 and left tens of thousands homeless.

Among those whose homes were destroyed was Har, who lived in a rural area near Gorkha with his wife and three children.

Last month, Williams returned with donations from Central Albertans willing to help the Nepalese rebuild their country and their lives.

Williams said despite her prior traumatic brush with natural disaster, she remained calm in her hotel room on this trip. “I was OK,” she says.

The rebuilding work is well underway in many of the hard-hit areas of Nepal, but it remains a battered country. A hotel she stayed in on her last visit still doesn’t have running water.

However, she could see new pipelines being laid in the street of the capital Kathmandu and there was visible progress in many other areas.

Williams provided money to Har to use in any way he needed. It’s not the first help Har has gotten. Williams’ daughter Janvier visited last September and brought with her donations raised locally.

He used that to fix up a home for his mother.

Williams also brought a suitcase full of books for the school, where she took refuge after she hiked down from the mountains towards safety.

“A lot of the kids recognized me.”

She asked if they remembered her crying, and they had not forgotten the scared and emotional Canadian who had appeared among them to spend the night.

The books were donated by the Sylvan Lake library and were happily received along with some sports equipment she managed to pack.

Life for many has not been easy since the earthquake and its aftershocks.

“It’s still pretty hard there,” she says. “There are not as many people taking tours.”

Guiding and accommodating tourists had contributed a significant amount to the nation’s economy.

In Kathmandu, the signs of rebuilding are everywhere. Work crews can be seen all around the city replacing water mains cracked and split by the earthquake.

“There’s a lot of rubble all over Kathmandu,” she says.

Visiting Har again was uplifting.

“It was fabulous.” Searching for the words to describe their connection, she says, “We’re just close.

“He basically realizes that if I had not hurt my leg he would have been gone.”

Har had been guiding Williams on a walking tour through Langtang National Park when she pulled a muscle in her leg. Reluctantly, she decided to turn back and was on a bus heading to Kathmandu when the earthquake hit.

One of the hardest hit areas was the town of Langtang, where she would have been had she kept walking.

On this latest trip, Williams met a photojournalist, who showed her photos of what she had missed. A landslide had brought down a two- to three-km wide swath of mountainside. It buried a river and slammed into the community below.

The Nepalese are rebuilding but the earthquake is never far from their minds. It is a day that has become a tragic mile post.

“People still stop and ask each other, where were you?”

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