Those gathered at Wichita State University to support Nepal on Sunday night pulled tightly together to shelter their lit candles from the Kansas wind.
It was a literal demonstration of the spirit they wanted to show in the face of the calamitous earthquake that struck the mountainous country just over a week ago.
Much of Wichita’s Nepalese community and many friends, about 300 in all, were at the rally outside the university’s Rhatigan Student Center.
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They sang, lit candles in the shape of an outline of Nepal and held a moment of silence. The group listened to both the Nepalese national anthem and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Nepal, in the Himalayan Mountains, was rocked by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake on April 25, which killed more than 7,000 and injured twice that many. Hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings were destroyed.
For those in Wichita, it was a way to do something for those far away. They will raise money through the sale of T-shirts and other fundraising efforts.
“I’m here to support those who have suffered this hideous earthquake in Nepal,” said Tushar Nagpure, an electrical engineering student from India. “Physical disasters, they weaken you because of the destruction. But I would request that people be united and stay strong, because when you are united, emotional strength is something which will keep you up. My heartfelt condolences are with those who have lost their loved ones.”
Jaya Mainali, a Nepalese native who works in Wichita, helped organize the event. He estimated there are about 300 Nepalese in Wichita – half are students and half are living and working here.
“We have done similar things before and have been pretty successful,” he said. “Our community is pretty good about helping out. I can’t put a dollar amount on it, but I think we will have a substantial amount to help.”
Mainali said his own family in Nepal wasn’t harmed, but he knows of others who were.
“I have quite a few friends who were affected,” he said. “One of the WSU alums lost relatives over there, and I know quite a few people who are injured or lost family members.”
The event closed with the crowd singing “We Are the World.”