Aid worker Gemma Gillie flew out to Nepal at the weekend as part of the Save the Children response to the devastating earthquake and BBC’s One Show filmed her departure.
Gemma, who grew up in Coldstream and attended Berwickshire and Kelso high schools, works in Save the Children International’s humanitarian information, communications and reporting team, and had 48 hours notice that she would be flying to Kathmandu.
The BBC wanted to do a piece for the show, focusing on an aid worker flying out as part of the international emergency response to the earthquake disaster and having decided on Gemma, a film crew followed her every move as she packed her bags in her London flat and headed to Heathrow.
The film is scheduled for tonight’s (Thursday, May 7) One Show programme at 7pm.
The 7.9-magnitude earthquake destroyed more than 90 per cent of schools in the Kathmandu area and across Nepal 320,000 children have been made homeless and face months of sleeping out in harsh conditions – so there’s plenty to do.
“I arrived on Sunday after a 29-hour journey, including an eight-hour layover in Abu Dhabi,” said Gemma.
“After we arrived in Kathmandu we sat on the runway for over an hour before there was an arrival gate free for us – a sign of the congestion currently facing Kathmandu airport at the moment with so many planes of aid workers and supplies.
“Once off the plane we registered at the Earthquake Response Desk before collecting our luggage – not an easy task.
“There were around five planes worth of people waiting for all their baggage and the queues were three people deep to get to the luggage belt. Thankfully I was with fellow aid workers from Doctors Without Borders, so we were able to form a sort of luggage tag team, otherwise I would have just given up and left my bags there.
“I got to our base at around 11.30pm so it was dark and I couldn’t really see the extent of the damage. Though walking up to my room, it was impossible not to see all the cracks in the walls and some of the broken windows – a reminder of why I’m here.
“I was able to get around six hours’ sleep before getting up and going into the office. All of the response team take a mini bus to the office every morning and on the way, I was able to see for the first time in daylight the extent of the damage. Some of the buildings are nothing but piles of brick – no sign at all that they were ever someone’s home. I had around an hour in the office for the daily operations meeting, then was sent straight out to the field to visit a camp where hundreds of families who have lost their homes are now living.
“The conditions that these people are living in are honestly shocking, tiny makeshift tents for families of up to 6/7 people at times.
“While I was there, our water and sanitation teams had begun building toilets for the families staying there – up until now they had nothing.
“Our teams have also set up child-friendly spaces, large tents where children can play, learn about safe hygiene practices (as water-borne diseases are common following a natural disaster) and receive support to help them deal with what has happened.
“The camp itself is in the grounds of a school, which is packed with people who have lost their homes following the earthquake.
“Schools have been closed since the earthquake struck, but are due to reopen on May 15.
“However, as schools all over the country are currently home to hundreds of families, there are many which will not be able to reopen.”