Helping elderly cope with disaster

Gauri Bista, an active member of the informal Kittachaur Elderly People’s Group in Godawari, brags about her husband’s discomfort to let her come for the afternoon gathering. The 63-year-old performs a little caricature mimicking her husband’s tone.

“What good will it do for you to waste your time gossiping around with other old people?” performs Gauri, putting both hands on her waist.

“It will do no good. But I could at least flex some muscles. Do the little talking with people who listen to me. I am no slob like you,” blurted out Gauri, performing her part.

This filled the room with laughter.

Gauri, the youngest member of the group, adds plenty of humor and energy during such gatherings. She is the most vocal, and also the showstopper. Her recent favorite ‘pass time’ has been making older members of the group constantly laugh either by cracking jokes, narrating funny incidents, singing satirical songs or reciting funny poems. She knows it all.

She takes lead in arranging these gatherings. She says that it has become a platform for her to insert some fun into her regular life.

“Whenever we decide to gather on a particular afternoon, I prepare beforehand. Sometimes, I write satirical poems or gazals. Other times I share funny moments from the past or tell jokes. It helps me divert my thoughts from daily life. It’s different,” says Gauri.

The elderly group was formed as part of Danish Church Aid (DCA)’s Alliance Psychosocial Program run under its Earthquake Emergency Project (EEP). Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and ACT are other collaborating partners.

These group of old people, which consists of 10 regular members, were initially called to gather few months after the 2015 Nepal Earthquake by the youths of Friend’s Help Group, an association of community mobilizers of Friend’s Service Council Nepal, DCA’s implementing partner in Lalitpur district.

Thousands of people suffering from post-quake trauma in the four worst-hit districts—Gorkha, Dhading, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur – are benefiting from the psychosocial program. The program is founded upon community participation as the core value, which serves the program’s purpose as it ensures effective implementation. Regular education programs, awareness campaigns, recreational activities, discussions and events are organized in schools and communities.

Selected community people are trained as community mediators to provide psychosocial trainings. They return to their communities and serve as focal points to troubleshoot the conflicts and issues arising due to earthquake. These mediators identify the people facing psychosocial challenges and help them cope and return to their normal life. Special cases are handled by the psychosocial counselors or referred for further clinical treatment.

Gauri has spontaneously taken up the responsibility ensuring that the meeting of the elderly group happen. Initially, these gatherings served as a platform for old people to share their personal experiences of surviving the earthquake and their losses due to the disaster. They were also trained on disaster preparedness and awareness sessions, basic hygiene classes, meditation techniques and light exercises by FSCN mobilizers.

Following some preliminary sessions, they were encouraged to organize these kind of gatherings on their own. The group occasionally meets these days, the meetings mostly focusing on activities like singing prayers, songs, dancing in addition to sharing challenges and casual jokes among themselves. Though most of them are living in the temporary shelters, they are coping with the disaster together.

“These kind of meetings give us break from our regular ways of life. They’ve made our bond stronger,” says Gauri.

Published in Setopati on: Friday, June 03, 2016 17:18:31