Susmita’s Story: A story of hope
June 17th: 2016
Stepping through the puddles of mud, and over shallow drainage canals into the displacement camp, first impressions were how little has changed. Possibly there are now more tents, cramped onto this no-man’s land in the middle of Kathmandu. I tiptoe my way through the filth and rubbish, and cautiously ask a resident if Susmita – the blind girl and her family are still here. I am desperately hoping that for their sakes life has moved on, and they have been rehomed. I am surprised to hear that they are still here, and quickly make my way through to their tent. Initially they do not recognise me. The tall, white, sweaty stranger towering over them with a new entourage of foreign faces. But soon they remember, and happy smiles erupt. Susmita comes out of the dark tent and holds my hands, then reaches up to remind herself of my short hair. A new addition to the family is a small baby – born in the camp. Now being looked after by the two girls as their family work away from the camp as labourers during the day. I am so pleased to have found them, but the dreadful conditions of the camp, their clothes, and the dirt all weigh deeply on me.
Yesterday (June 19th) we return to the camp, this time with a film crew in tow. NTV Plus (Nepal TV) have found out about our charity’s work, plus the story of the making of “Namaste: A Himalayan Journey”. They want to report on the conditions, particularly the plight of Susmita, who is struggling to cope with living with blindness in the camp. Through the interpreting director, we are able to uncover more about life in the camp. At night time, drunkards and drug users come to the camp, bringing fear, and a new layer of challenges. People have moved there to try and lay claim to earthquake funds, so the external help has ceased, and this has resulted those in desperate need of homes remaining un-housed 14 months on from the Quake.
For Susmita, life is particularly tough. She cannot find her way around the camp, and is entirely dependent on her little sister for guidance. She eloquently tells us how gifted she was at school. We learn she lost her sight age 11 from Meningitis, so the blind world is new to her. She thrived at school, but lost her sponsorship before the quake, and now cannot attend the camp school, as the well-sighted children mock her, and disrupt the lessons. We leave again deeply moved and frustrated by the situation of these people, and determined to make things move forward.
News of Susmita’s story has spread, and finally things may be about to change. We have been invited in onto the 6pm live show on NTV this Friday, to show Susmita’s story, and the journey of Doctors For Nepal. We will be going in with Susmita, and have already been offered the full payment for any surgery and medical care she may need for her sight. We hope that her story will serve to touch many others here in Nepal, and that we will be able to find sponsors for her and her sister to attend local schools. So many remain helpless without means of escaping their plight, but we hold strong the hope that Susmita’s story will reignite interest in these forgotten people, and serve as a call-to-action to the government and other local agencies.