If the world today were as it was a little over one week ago, 35 students on the Development Administration and Planning MSc programme would be boarding a plane to Kathmandu for our annual overseas field trip. That they are not warrants relief and great sadness; relief at not being caught up in the tragedy of a powerful earthquake, and great sadness at the scale of loss in Kathmandu.
Since news of the earthquake came on Saturday 26 April, the figures of people who have died, are lost or have been forced to leave their homes, is steadily rising. Images of ancient places students were to visit as part of a city orientation, are images of rubble and dust. When tragic events happen in distant places it can be difficult to translate every statistic in a death toll to a real person and every crumbled building to a home.
For our Nepali friends and field trip partners life has changed in an instant. As phone lines and internet connections slowly come back online a sense of relief returns; email messages confirm they are alive and unhurt.
The messages also reveal people slowly coming to terms with the challenges before them. Some predict it will take at least a month after the shocks subside for a semblance of normalcy to return to the country. In the meantime, they and their families are sleeping outside and cautiously visiting homes and offices to check on damage, gather supplies and plan for what happens next.
All of our field trip partners are engaged in the development sector either as scholars or practitioners. For them, a priority equal to securing their heath is returning to work to assist some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in Kathmandu, people who are disproportionately affected by the consequences of an earthquake.
In the process of cancelling our trip and reinforcing our distance from tragedy, we are inspired and humbled by the commitment of our friends and partners in coping with the inescapable realities of this calamity.
To support relief efforts in Nepal, donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) are very welcome: http://www.dec.org.uk/