Why we must not give up on assistance

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Why we must not give up on assistance

All week long, stories of the devastating earthquake in Nepal have reverberated through the media. Stories of horror, despair, and torpor of people who have lost their loved ones and homes. But there were also stories of people getting miraculously rescued after being stuck under the rubble for several days. As I had visited Nepal just last summer, all of these stories touched me personally.

Last June, I went on a medical volunteer trip to Nepal with Gangnam Severance Hospital and Korea Food for the Hungry International. In the team, I worked as a translator and administrative assistant for a team of doctors and nurses. While working amidst the immense heat and humidity, I realized that Koreans and Nepalis share in common their pride for their culture and passion for education.

Like Koreans, Nepali people are very proud of their culture and heritage. Sites such as the Boudhanath Stupa and Pashupatinath Temple complex were fascinating. On the last night of our trip to Nepal, our team had the honour of dining with the president of the local Nepalese NGO which we closely worked with. In his short but impassioned speech, he thanked the Severance medical team for providing medical service to financially disadvantaged patients in Nepal and running a workshop for Nepalese doctors and medical professionals. But he also remarked: “We Nepalese doctors have learned a lot from you, but I hope you Korean doctors were able to learn something from Nepal’s rich culture.” I could sense from his voice the effort of Nepali people to preserve and promote their cultural heritage around the world.

This similarity was also present in the education area. I was also surprised to find out that many young Nepali people spoke English fluently. I encountered several advertisements on the roadsides for study-abroad programmes, English learning institutes, and private tutoring for exams such as TOEFL and IELTS. At many times, private schools advertised their institutions by displaying the near-perfect exam scores of their students on the placards. This looked very similar to the Korean craze for English. I later learnt that the obsession with English learning in Nepal began with the need to serve foreign tourists. But regardless the beginning, this phenomenon is definitely positive, because those who know English will be able to receive higher education and later work in specialized fields and become professional workers.

As I continue to hear the stories of suffering from Nepal, I feel that we must help Nepal so the Nepali people can recover their previous pride and hope. Fifty years ago, Korea was in a similar situation to Nepal’s. Devastated by war and nothing to live off of, Koreans built a robust economy from the pure dedication to training, education, and pride and confidence in ourselves. These commonalities are exactly why we must not stop assisting Nepal.

Min Byung-chae, 11th-grade student at Seoul Foreign School and the first prize winner of the Essay Contest 2015 organized by the Gulen Institute Youth Platform Committee

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