First reports of the Nepal earthquake early on Saturday 25 April 2015 suggested that as many as 150 people may have died. As the hours went by, that estimate increased.
An accurate figure will not be known for some time, but it is now certain that thousands of people have lost their lives.
Many more have been injured. And thousands are homeless. Many survivors will experience great hardship for a long time as they struggle to rebuild the basics of their lives.
Use the following activities to help young people learn more about this disaster and share reflections on the humanitarian impact of the earthquake.
Helping from afar
Suggested age range: 12-19 year olds.
It is common to think of two groups of people in a disaster. There are the victims. These are people directly affected, those who've been injured, seen their homes destroyed or are grieving for lost family members. And then there are the rescuers.
However, in the minutes and hours after a disaster like the Nepal earthquake the distinction between victim and rescuer doesn’t exist.
Any member of the community could be injured or in need of help. Any member of the community could be there to help someone.
The paramedics, the fire and rescue service, the trained volunteers and all their buildings and resources are just as likely to have been affected by the earthquake as anyone else.
Local people will be first on the scene and the first to start helping each other.
Look at the first four photographs in the Powerpoint. These photos show civilians, members of the armed forces, and aid teams helping to clear the rubble from collapsed buildings.
Discuss the work they are doing. How must that feel for people who themselves have experienced sudden loss and trauma?
Ask young people to choose one or more of the words from the list below and devise a sentence using it that in some way describes the photograph. If the sentence can include two or more of the words, that's a bonus.
Look at the second set of photos in the Powerpoint. These show some of the people affected by the earthquake.
Ask young people to self-select into four groups, each choosing one photo to focus on. Then start a discussion to help explore the humanitarian impact of this crisis.
- Why have they chosen that particular photo?
- Can they describe what is happening in the scene? Who is in it? What do they think is going on? What do they think the people might be feeling?
- What kinds of help and support do people need in the immediate aftermath of a disaster? Prompt young people to think about both emotional and practical needs. For example, first aid, medical treatment, knowledge about loved ones, water, shelter, food, essential supplies. What else might they need?
- What difficulties might people have in accessing the support they need after an earthquake? Encourage discussion around the logistics and practicalities involved in getting essential supplies to where they are most needed.
- Can young people identify some of the short and longer-term impacts of a natural disaster for both individuals and communities? Think about what people affected by the earthquake will need right now. What might they need in the coming weeks and months?
In a disaster like an earthquake people can be separated. They can be very anxious for information about their family and friends.
Spend a few moments reflecting on what these people might be feeling:
- Someone who survived the earthquake but whose village is cut off from the rest of the country, including their family members. They want to let everyone know that they're ok, but have no way to do it.
- The parents of a climber in the Himalaya who haven't heard any news about her. They're desperately worried.
- Neighbours of family who all died when their house collapsed. They want to let the rest of the family know what happened, that it was all very sudden, but the neighbours do not know where the family are.
In each case imagine that you are there listening to the person.
What would you say that might help them cope with their anxiety? What would you avoid saying?
Look at the website set up by the International Committee of the Red Cross to help people register or search for missing family members.
Describe in your own words why this service is important, and how it helps.
News of a disaster doesn't just happen. A journalist receives a report from someone on the scene or is aware of what's going on, thinks about it and publishes it.
That's the procedure whether it's mainstream newspapers, radio, television or other media such as Twitter or Facebook.
What people publish involves judgement.
Explore some of the choices editors make by asking young people to imagine that they are in charge of a news outlet - whether mainstream or social media.
Individually or in groups, they should work out answers to the following scenarios and be prepared to justify them to the whole group.
- You're getting some reports from Everest and others from villages much closer to the centre of the earthquake. Which would your readers or viewers be most interested in? Which do you want to tell them about? Why?
- Would you show images of dead bodies? A child in distress? Grieving parents? Such images are effective ways to convey the awfulness of the tragedy. But you are also concerned about the dignity of those pictured and the sensitivities of readers. What do you decide?
- A dramatic video sequence of an avalanche hitting Everest base camp has emerged. It is disturbing and contains a lot of swearing. Would you publish it where young children might see it?
- People are taking selfies in front of Nepal's famous Dharahara tower, whose nine stories were destroyed in the earthquake. Would you publish an opinion piece on what has been called "earthquake tourism"?
- You hear that an elderly person has been pulled from the rubble days after all hope of survivors had gone. How much space do you give to covering this apparent miracle, compared with reporting the hardships faced by survivors? How important is good news to your readers?
Shifting media focus
The Nepal earthquake has been on news bulletins since Saturday. A lot of the news is focusing on the relief effort.
Invite young people to estimate how long the disaster will continue to be in the news. How do they think the news stories will develop over the coming weeks and months?
There are whole towns close to the centre of the earthquake that have not been reported on because they are cut off.
How do young people think the UK media will report on those when they are reached? Scenes are likely to be very shocking. If you were a news editor, what would you do?
Many people watching the scenes in Nepal on television want to help.
They see people preparing for another night out in the open, and they want to send blankets, clothing and other possessions.
Some are prepared to leave their homes and travel out to Nepal to offer practical help.
Aid agencies such as the British Red Cross receive many such offers. They are appreciated, but have to be turned down. Discuss why. Share the following thoughts:
- An inexperienced person in Nepal unfamiliar with the people, the region and the customs could be a liability, not an asset.
- It's far too expensive and complex to transport goods from the UK. The difficulties and cost would take resources away from the relief effort, not help it.
- Hundreds of thousands of local people have been trained by the Red Cross in what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
Invite young people to research what different aid agencies are asking people in the UK to do. Compare their messages. What do they have in common?
What actions could young people in the UK take to support people affected by the Nepal earthquake?
Aid agencies in the UK have come together to launch a fundraising appeal through the Disasters Emergency Committee. This reaches more people and makes it easier for donors to know how to give.
Do young people think that the Nepal earthquake appeal will be well supported? People in the UK are generous and many are very committed to fundraising.
Discuss patterns of giving and what motivates givers.
Many people like to help local charities. Talk about the importance of seeing the difference you've made. How much does it matter to you personally?
Donate to the Nepal Earthquake Appeal.
Nepal is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries. That’s why, in 2012, the Nepal Red Cross began a programme to help people in the Kathmandu valley prepare better for disasters, with a focus on earthquakes.
Give students five minutes working in small groups to list some of the ways they think people in Nepal might have been preparing for an earthquake. Come together and share ideas.
Watch the video and start a discussion with young people.
How did young people’s initial thoughts compare to the actual preparations that were made?
What impact do young people think this kind of disaster preparedness will have had on individuals and communities over the past few days?
Does preparing for an emergency make you more likely to be able to cope when it happens? Why?
How do we prepare for emergencies in the UK?
This resource was written by PJ White of Alt 62 and published in April 2015.