Namaste once again from Nepal. As most of you know, who’ve been following our Asia travels, Ben and I were in Pokhara, Nepal when the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck on April 25. The earthquake killed over 8000 people, injured thousands more, and destroyed an estimated 500,000 homes.
It was a terrifying experience, but we were lucky to have remained unharmed and safe throughout the quake and the numerous aftershocks. Three days later we traveled to Kathmandu to make our flight home and saw some of the wreckage first hand.
We returned to the US to spend some much needed time with family and friends. After 4 weeks back home, we both felt ready to go back to Nepal to volunteer.
Before leaving we contacted a couple organizations about their current projects. We decided we wanted to both volunteer and raise funds for local, volunteer-based NGOs instead of large international ones. Due to government bureaucracy and corruption, many of the relief resources from large international organizations were being tied up and progress has been very slow. Because of online crowdfunding sites and social media, the smaller, local organizations seemed to be getting the most done. They were reaching the remote villages in the most affected areas first.
One such organization, which was working in the badly damaged villages of Sindhupalchok district, was the Maya Education Initiative (MEI). They requested we bring a supply of medicine for a village called Fulpindanda for the upcoming monsoon season. There are about 870 families living in Fulpindanda and surrounding rural areas and about 90% of the homes have been completely destroyed. Most people are living in tents and tarps to ride out the monsoon season, which puts them at risk for various illnesses.
Since starting our Go Fund Me page on behalf of remote villages like Fulpindanda, we have been blown away by the support of our family and friends.
A total of $3,670 was donated in just 7 days for families living in the areas worst affected by the earthquake. Of the $3.670 raised, $565 was spent medicine, which included anti-diarrhea meds, pain/fever meds, infant/baby fever meds, basic first aid kits and cold meds.
We met with two volunteers from MEI to deliver supplies and will remain connected with them as they have a housing reconstruction project that will begin in September, after monsoon season.
The next day something unexpected happened. Ben saw a notice that said a girl aged 12 was scheduled to have heart surgery in 2 days, but they were short 4 units of B+ blood. Ben is B+ so he called the number immediately and they were eager to get him into the hospital. They were still short 3 units, so we put posts out on facebook and contacted volunteers at All Hands asking for more donors. By the end of the day all four donors were located.
We went to the hospital the night before the surgery so Ben could donate. While there we got a chance to meet the little girl and hear her story.
Her name is Alisha. She is 12 years old and is an earthquake survivor from the Gorka District (the location of the earthquake’s epicenter). She was pulled from the rubble when her house collapsed on top of her. Alisha was born with two holes in her heart. After the earthquake her condition worsened and she needed to have surgery as soon as possible.
An individual found out about her and decided to sponsor the surgery through an organization called Karma Flight. She had been in Kathmandu for 5 days waiting for blood donors. Somehow the universe put Ben in the right place at the right time and we were able to help her.
The next day we went back to the hospital. We brought her a little stuffed white elephant (a good luck symbol in Asia). When we gave her the present she couldn’t stop smiling. She wanted to take it into the operating room and when nurse told her she couldn’t she tried to hide it under her blanket.
We stayed the entire duration of the surgery in case more blood was needed. The procedure was successful and once she recovers she should be able to run and play just like any other 12 year old. She has never been able to walk long distances. The school in her village is quite a distance from her home and because she physically couldn’t walk the hill leading up to the school, she never attended. A volunteer with Karma Flight, named Raju, will personally ensure that when Alisha returns to Gorka she is eventually able to go to school.
Raju is a great man. We sat for hours discussing what Karma Flight is doing in the devastated Gorka district. At this time the most critical issue is that people have adequate shelter for the monsoon season. Karma Flight, a volunteer-based organization, has been building emergency shelters for these families. They move quickly, building over 50 shelters a week. But with every village in the district in need, they have a long way to go. Their team of volunteers is currently in Pokhara trying to raise funds to build more shelters.
These small, local organizations are how aid and support is getting to the hardest hit remote villages. After seeing how inefficient and slow the government is handling the recovery, people have become empowered to take the recovery into their own hands to help their fellow Nepalis. Raju, for instance, has left his job to volunteer full time with Karma Flight. They are also working to rebuild schools in the Gorka villages and provide kids in the district school supplies.
Their work is really inspiring and we are excited to get involved. If you are interested in donating money to have an emergency shelter for a family in the Gorka district or would like more info, please visit our Go Fund Me Page: http://www.gofundme.com/vtj688r
Each shelter costs $200 in materials. Any support you can give will go directly to the areas worst affect by the earthquake. Any amount would be greatly appreciated! Using the funds we raise we will participate in the construction of these homes to ensure your donation is used effectively.
(As mentioned on our fundraising page, absolutely zero of these donations is going towards Ben and my own personal living expenses. We will donate 100% of what we receive for building materials)