Rebuilding Nepal: Q&A with Sam McLoughlin
Sam McLoughlin is a west coast born-and-bred Canadian filmmaker. He has traveled and documented stories through film in Liberia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines. Last fall, Sam joined World Vision Canada and the Vineyard Church in Kathmandu, Nepal, seeing firsthand the impact of relief efforts and shooting a 23-minute documentary on the ongoing rebuild process.
Here, Sam tells us about the people he met, the things he saw, and his personal reflections from his time in Nepal.
What were your first impressions of Nepal?
My first trip to Nepal was actually in 2007. On that trip, I remember meeting these kids at a soccer field. They were on their way from school, and they came right up to me and wanted to get to know where I was from. I was struck by how friendly and welcoming they were… and I just kind of fell in love with the country then. So to hear about the earthquake was really heartbreaking. I remember how joyful, how amazing the people were… it must have been so tough for them.
Going back to Nepal in 2015, I definitely noticed that they had gone through some shock. I did also meet some kids who were really friendly this time around, but meeting children who had been through pretty extreme circumstances, you could tell that the earthquake had really affected them. At the same time, I also saw a lot of kids who were having fun. Kids are resilient and they do figure out how to have fun again.
What did you expect to see on your second visit, post-earthquake? Did anything surprise you?
I had expected to see more rubble, more buildings that had collapsed, but they have actually done a really good job of cleaning up in the city. What I wasn’t aware of was just how many buildings had been made unsafe by the earthquake, but still had people living in them because they didn’t have anywhere else to go.
I’d sensed the spirit of resiliency in Nepal the first time I was there… I could see how proud people were to be Nepali, proud of their culture and their land. They’re still a very welcoming people to tourists, but they seemed a little discouraged this time around. I think the earthquake has really affected tourists’ perception of Nepal.
You were behind the camera the whole time. Did you encounter anyone/anything that really moved you at a personal level?
It was interesting to meet people in Nepal just a few months after the earthquake. A lot of them had lost most of their possessions, but somehow, they weren’t devastated. I could tell that some people had experienced shock and loss, but it struck me that they didn’t seem despondent. There was still that joy that is such a strong part of their identity, because they hadn’t lost their community, culture and or their sense of ‘home’ in Nepal.
I met people who were really happy with what they had. They knew that their most important ‘possessions’ in life were not things that could be destroyed in an earthquake. The culture of the Nepali, their connection with friends, family and community, their land… these are the things that give them joy, and that provide a foundation for meaning in their lives. And they weren’t things that could come crumbling down.
How has your experience in Nepal impacted your day-to-day life back home?
Here in North America, we can be so tied to our possessions. I think that if we were to experience something like the Nepali people did, to lose all of our possessions in an earthquake… a lot of us would feel we have nothing to turn to. We would be completely devastated.
Building your life on something bigger than just your stuff… deriving meaning from something that can’t be destroyed in a earthquake… that’s something that I think I’ll try harder to practice in my life. Even though I’m a Christian and it’s a part of my worldview, I can easily fall into the trap of putting a lot of emphasis on the things that I have. To be reminded that those are things that can be destroyed, and to be challenged with some hard questions: Would I lose everything in that case? Would I be despondent? Or would I still have joy in my life, like the Nepali people do? That really inspired me.
What is one thing you’d want people to know or remember about Nepal?
Rebuilding is a long and difficult process. It’s one thing to clean up the rubble of your house and build a new one, but to have to pay for the demolition of a house has been made unsafe… that’s a whole other expense. Things are really difficult for a lot of people there right now.
In terms of how to help… I would actually encourage people to go to Nepal. The country is so dependent on tourism and they have so much to offer the world. I think it’s a great life experience to go on a trek, meet the locals, eat the food… having been there twice, I hope that people wouldn’t be afraid to go because of a perception of danger. The Nepali people take so much pride in showing off their home, the richness of their heritage. It must be so discouraging for them when people are afraid to visit.
Other Side: Hope From the Rubble is a collaboration between the World Vision Artist Collective and the Vineyard Churches of Canada, celebrating the hope, resilience and beauty found in the midst of Nepal’s rebuild. The album is available for digital download on iTunes and Google Play. Click on the album cover to get your copy, and help us spread the word on social media by using the sharing buttons at the top of this page!
All proceeds from the album sales will be invested in the ongoing rebuilding efforts in Nepal.
To learn more about the project, watch the trailer, or book a documentary screening, please visit artistcollective.ca/nepal.