Greg Khng first fell in love with India in 2012 when he travelled to the northeast part of the country with the Walla Walla University annual immunization trip, led by the WWU nursing program.
In the past four years WWU nursing students have traveled to India five times to provide immunizations at the two of the local Seventh-day Adventist schools, and Khng's trip proved life-changing.
This year Khng decided to travel back to India to film the nursing program’s latest trip. What he didn’t anticipate was that his three-week visit would turn into a six-month commitment to India’s Riverside Adventist Academy in Meghalaya.
Just one week into filming the nursing group, Riverside Adventist Academy offered Khng a position teaching computer science, math, and assisting in yearbook productions. Despite the full-time graphic design job waiting for him back in Portland, Oregon, Khng decided this was an opportunity he just couldn’t pass up.
“My love for the people and the school made it easy to quit and move to India,” Khng said. “So in a way, Riverside chose me.”
The day Khng was scheduled to begin teaching classes was the day the floodwaters hit RAA. Very early in the morning, the flood waters began to pour into the school.
“I woke up and saw a couple feet of standing water outside my apartment. I went to the bathroom, and that's when an older boy came [in] to wake me up. He told me that the water would be getting much higher and I would need to get to higher ground.”
Khng began to quickly gather his belongings, trying to get his electronics out of the reach of the rising waters. He soon realized that the water was coming in too fast, so he threw what he couldn't carry on the top bunk of his bed and locked the door.
He waded through the water to the clinic where many of the RAA faculty, staff, and their families were waiting out the storm.
The floodwaters were first seen coming by one of the watchman. “Get out! Get out! The water is coming!” he yelled.
Teachers began to quickly hurry the 900 RAA students to higher ground.
Ritu Rai Thukon was one the teachers helping the children to safety. Because of his heroic actions, all 900 children made it safely to the second floor of one of the school buildings. Unfortunately, the waters carried Thukon off when the post he was holding onto broke. He was later found dead.
Riverside Adventist Academy was built by Maranatha International volunteers in 2007. Because of the flooding, the school has suffered severe damage. In places like Khgn’s apartment, the floodwater reached six feet high. The walls of each of the school’s buildings have been damaged and in some places mud is stacked a foot tall. Several of the school’s outer boundary walls were washed away and the electric system powering the school has been exposed to water. Garbage and blown-over trees are littered across the campus. Many of the parked cars had their windows blown out by the water and some were carried away completely. The students’ belongings were all washed away.
The school has been placed on an extended “holiday” while faculty and staff come together to regroup and rebuild.
Many are worried that students will not be able to return to RAA once it has been reopened. Most students do not have much money to begin with, and the added expense of returning home early might prevent them from coming back to the school at all.
The heavy rainfall this week caused significant damage in several of India’s districts. Sixty-eight people have been reported dead, 100 people are still missing, and over 350,000 people are stranded. Traffic has come to a halt on the streets and rural farmland has turned into bodies of water.
As for Greg Khng, his trip to Riverside Adventist Academy has been nothing like he anticipated. Despite his plan to stay until February, Khng is now planning for an early return home as soon as possible.
“It’s not technically safe for me as I'm not used to their water and bottled water is hard to find,” he said.
Khng's planning of his trip home has been complicated because his passport was lost in the flood. In the meantime, Khng is working to document the damage so he can send the footage to ADRA and the General Conference. The video will allow them to assess the damage and figure out how best to send aid.
“While this to me was a bad out-of-country experience, this is a complete disaster for them [the people affected by the flooding],” says Khng. “Many lost all their belongings, many lost their homes, and I can only imagine how many lost their lives. I urge people to do what the can to help.”
Khng is hoping to start fundraising for RAA as soon as he gets back to the states.
The WWU nursing team, which just returned home from their fifth trip to India, is devastated by the news. “We plan to be involved as much as we can,” says Rosemarie Buck, assistant professor of nursing at WWU. “Whether it’s through immunizations or rebuilding, we want to help.”
For those interested in helping RAA through donations, you can send a check to the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church at 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904 and write in the MEMO: “Adventist Child India for the ‘Mack Trust Fund.’” You can also donate with a credit card by calling (301) 680-6228.
Image Above: Greg Khng with student.
Rachel Logan is an intern with Spectrum, and a recent graduate of Walla Walla University.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6281