Tuesday Talks with Phil Wilkerson

Determination through Disasters


Phil Wilkerson is TEAR Australia’s International Program Team (IPT) Coordinator.  This article was originally posted on For Tomorrow.org:  http://4tm.me/e/49485

Phil coordinates TEAR’s International Program Team, working with a dedicated team to strengthen relationships and bringing hope and life for families and communities facing the daily challenge of poverty.


When the earthquake hit Nepal on 25 April, I was in the middle of writing a forTomorrow blog entry about a trip made to Nepal earlier this year.  A lot of the work I saw on that visit focused on strengthening the skills of people with disabilities to enable them to improve their social and economic security.

In some ways, my time in Nepal seems a long time ago now. Following the earthquake, our media was full of very different images of people who had lost family members, others whose homes had been destroyed, recognisable buildings that had collapsed, and the miraculous rescues of individuals many days after the event. News about Nepal returned again following the second large earthquake on 12 May. Shortly after, a tweet by the BBC seemed to sum up what was left for many people: “My world has been destroyed” – a legacy of fear in Chautara town, Nepal.

Determination through Disasters

As I return to finish my writing, the news stories have largely disappeared, but pain, fear and trauma remain with individuals and communities in Nepal.

My mind continues to grapple with the full extent of the struggles, loss and grief that so many people are facing today.

I find myself thinking about what it must be like for people who live each day with a disability to experience the destruction of an earthquake. How frightening it must be for someone to sense the ground swaying and buildings moving, watching people run but without being able to hear. How difficult it must be for people in wheelchairs or on crutches who have lost homes that were equipped with ramps and accessories. And for those who cannot see, there are now obstacles to overcome, as familiar paths have been destroyed.

What struck me about the individuals I met earlier this year, who were part of the disability work that TEAR supports, was their determination to overcome difficult circumstances. Through participation in a project implemented by TEAR partner the International Nepal Fellowship (INF), these highly motivated individuals were overcoming barriers faced in their own lives as people living with disabilities – and helping others to do the same.

Determination through Disasters

A member of one of the Disability People’s Organisations supported by TEAR partner INF.

I observed on my trip to Nepal how important supportive and encouraging relationships are to people who are living with a disability. Many had found a voice to speak because of the relationships they had found in their networks. Being part of a supportive group that meets together to discuss life issues was extremely valuable to them. INF works closely with Disability People’s Organisations that establish groups to reach out to others who are still isolated and marginalised. Rupa is one of those people. She is deaf and earns an income breaking large rocks into small ones – her income is $40 a month. Through the group she has recently joined she has an opportunity to learn new skills and improve her income. She also has an opportunity to connect with others and be encouraged and supported.

The earthquake has set back long-term development work in Nepal and individuals and communities will need to focus on recovery and rebuilding. My prayer is for those who were already on the margins, that they would not be forgotten. I pray for those who my faith calls on me to “prepare a banquet for”, that they will be especially looked after. I pray that their networks and relationships will be strengthened to enable them to cope with fear and trauma. And I pray for people like Rupa, who would not have heard the earthquake, but would quickly be aware of its devastation.

Determination through Disasters

Rupa earns $40 a month breaking large rocks into smaller ones. She is a member of one of the Disability People’s Organisations supported by TEAR partner INF.

International Nepal Fellowship (INF Nepal), a TEAR Australia partner, work in the areas of health and community development in the western and mid-western regions of Nepal. INF Nepal is a Christian non-government organisation aiming to “demonstrate God’s love and concern, and restore people’s relationships with each other, so they can live dignified lives to the full”. TEAR supports a number of INF Nepal projects including: long-term community development work; Partnership for Rehabilitation, which works with people living with disabilities; and Paluwa, which focuses on people living with HIV and AIDs. INF Nepal’s initial earthquake relief response was fully supported through other funding partnerships. They are in the process of planning longer-term recovery work that TEAR will have an opportunity to support.

By Phil Wilkerson

To donate to TEAR’s Nepal Earthquake Appeal go to: http://www.tear.org.au/projects/emergencies/nepal-earthquake

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