Jackson Heights and the surrounding communities have come together to show the victims of this weekend’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake in Nepal that they are not alone.
Members of the Queens Nepalese community and the New York Nepalese Football Club have begun a fundraising campaign to collect money that will buy necessary items for families left devastated after the earthquake hit the country on Saturday, claiming more than 3,200 lives.
“Whenever these things happen, we get together,” said Pralay Rajbhandari, a player and member of the New York Nepalese Football Club. “We are all united for this great cause.”
Rajbhandari, who has been living in Jackson Heights for eight years, has his whole family in Nepal and spent hours trying to contact them after the earthquake hit. He was finally able to contact his father and found out that his home in Nepal had partially collapsed and his family is currently staying at a shelter.
“It was heartbreaking,” Rajbhandari said. “After I heard the news I was trying to find [my family] but finally after a few hours I talked to my father. There is panic everywhere and the fear is still there. The whole country is in pain right now.”
On Sunday, close to a thousand people gathered in Jackson Heights to hold a candlelight vigil and pray for loved ones in Nepal. By the end of the day, $24,000 was collected.
“I was surprised. So many people came, so much support,” Rajbhandari said. “It was not only Nepalese people. All people donated generously and the figure is still going up.”
Councilman Daniel Dromm also attended the Sunday vigil to show his support.
“My heart goes out to the thousands of families who have lost someone in the catastrophic earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday,” Dromm said. “On Sunday, I joined many of my constituents in Diversity Plaza as a show of support for the earthquake victims. Many established organizations such as Adhikaar, the Red Cross and UNICEF need our support in the form of cash contributions. This is the best way to help right now.”
The organizers of Sunday’s vigil are currently still set up at Diversity Plaza, located at 73rd Street and 37th Road, and are accepting monetary donations as well as clothes or other items.
The president of the New York Nepalese Football Club, Wangla Lama, traveled to Nepal after the quake and is visiting shelters and writing down what people need.
Rajbhandari said that people in Nepal are in dire need of food, water, tents and blankets, and that any kind of donation would help. He also encourages people to donate to the Red Cross.
He added that some members of the club have also applied to head to Nepal to volunteer and are just waiting to get the permission to travel.
Assemblyman Francisco Moya, who represents parts of Jackson Heights, is also opening his office for any members of Queens’ Nepalese and South Asian communities who are in need of assistance.
“To New York’s Nepalese community, I send this message—the family of New York is behind you and we will support you in your time of need,” Moya said. “All of New York mourns with you in this moment of sadness.”
A candlelight vigil is expected to be held this Friday at 8 p.m. in Times Square. Anyone who is looking to donate or who has any questions on how they can help can contact Rajbhandari at 347-891-9841.