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Kansas City's Nepalese And Bhutanese Communities Unite After Earthquake

Naveen Vaidya, a math professor at UMKC, woke up in the middle of the night from a phone call from one of his relatives in the U.S. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake had hit his home country of Nepal, where his mother and sisters live.

"That's really one of the biggest moments in my life," said Vaidya. "I tried to call Nepal continuously for two or three days but it was really hard to get in touch with them."

He made occasional contact online but phone and internet have been unreliable. On Monday morning he was finally able to see his family's faces via Skype. 

Amar Bajracharya, president of the Kansas City Nepalese Society, says many Nepalese in Kansas City are anxiously awaiting updates from their families, good or bad.

"Almost [everyone] from Nepal has family back home so almost [everyone] has a sad story," says Bajracharya.  

Approximately 800 Nepalese live in the Kansas City area. The local Bhutanese population (Bhutan neighbors Nepal to the east) is much larger. Many Bhutanese refugees have roots in Nepal, having fled to the country to escape political persecution in Bhutan. They lived in Nepal for decades until the U.S. resettled 75,000 Bhutanese refugees in Kansas City, Philadelphia and Denver in 2006. Now the two communities are working together to support one another through the crisis. 

Sunday the Kansas City Nepalese Society held a vigil for the deceased and survivors of the earthquake at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. They also plan to launch a website, KCNepali.org, to provide information on gatherings and fundraising. The Bhutanese-Nepali Church in Kansas City, Kansas will hold prayer services.

Meanwhile Naveen Vaidya's family is living with a lot of uncertainty. 

"All the time I talked to (my family) they say, 'Oh, its coming again,'" he says.

Vaidya is referring to the aftershocks, the largest so far registered at magnitude 6.7. 

Amar Bajracharya says news from survivors is that the living conditions are getting worse.

"Day by day they're running out of water, running out of food. Most of them haven't gone into their homes yet. They're scared to go to home and living outside," he says.

In the midst trying to contact family and organizing fundraisers Vaidya says he appreciates the support he's received from the colleagues around the country.

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