Our City is Devastated. We Are Not.

The international press saw hopelessness, but these kids saw hope. See their city through their eyes in our Summer Issue cover story.

In April, Winston Struye was taking a taxi from eastern Nepal to Darjeeling, India, when a 7.9-magnitude earthquake hit central Nepal. The 24-year-old photographer immediately thought of his students back in Kathmandu and feared the worst. Just four days earlier, he had been in the Nepali capital, finishing a photography project at the ROKPA Children’s Home, helping a group of former street children document their daily lives through photography and learn the power of storytelling. Returning to Kathmandu two days after the quake, Struye found the city piecing itself back together. Corner stores were reopening, teahouses were filled with patrons, and though they were justifiably shaken, his former students were playing poker the way they had before the quake. This sense of resilience clashed with stories in the international media, which focused on wanton destruction, rising death tolls, and impending outbreaks of disease of Haiti-like proportions. Struye knew there was a side of the story not being told, so he gathered his students, showed them how Kathmandu was being depicted, and gave them an assignment: Show the world the side of their home not being shared. The destruction in Nepal’s capital was tremendous, but as the photos taken by Struye’s students communicate, so too is the spirit of its residents.

This photograph was taken from Pashupatinath looking out towards Boudhanath, Kathmandu. The Boudha Stupa, the large golden triangle, can be seen on the right.

Sarita Nepali, 11 years old

A tent encampment in the outer suburbs of Kathmandu

Surath Nepali, 13 years old

“This is a photo of my family in Dhading, a region heavily affected by the earthquake. I went to my village to see whether my family was ok after the earthquake or not. When I got there, nine days after the earthquake, they were all fine, but the houses were broken and they were rebuilding. I took this photo in the early morning and I purposely put the sun behind them. It shows the normal living of family life—someone drinking tea and feeding chickens.”

—Sanjay Tamang

Sanjay Tamang, 16 years old

“I took this photo on the way to Pashupatinath, Kathmandu. There are tents because of the earthquake, with people burning their garbage behind them.”

—Dechen Dolma

Dechen Dolma, 10 years old

Some of the kids living in the ROKPA Children’s Home

Ramesh Khadka, 12 years old

A photograph taken from Chobhar, Nepal

Pema Sangmo, 12 years old

“The woman in this picture is my grandmother, who is one of the eldest women in my village. Her house was completely flattened in the earthquake. She now has to live in the field and is having a very hard time in this stage of her life. She is sitting where her house used to be. She still does all the housework and cooks food for the family. She is wearing a traditional Nepali dress, bangles, tika and all.”

—Krishna Hari Dulal

Krishna Hari Dulal, 19 years old

Cover image by Krishna Hari Dulal

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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