To Nepal with Love
For those who read my blog, you will know of my connection to the spiritual country of Nepal – the birthplace of a good friend and his wonderful family and friends, who I have been hosted by on several occasions. It is also the place where I have met many other truly beautiful, happy souls, and experienced so many happy memories, including the wedding of one of my best friends. I write this post now, not to jump on the band wagon of disaster, but unplanned and unscripted, an expression of how I feel, a tribute possibly for the people at the heart of this tragedy, who have suffered and lost so much but are still out there fighting hard to help each other and literally pick and rebuild their lives and homes, and what we can do to help them. Read it or not, this post is not about my blog.
Despite the shock, fear and lack of comprehension from people on the ground in Kathmandu, I have been amazed and inspired by how quickly the city has pulled together. Nepalese friends living in Kathmandu have shared photos of the families on the street, working together to help keep each other strong. As the secondary waves and aftershocks continued to hit, these people kept each other afloat on the concrete seas. Official support has been slow to reach the people who need it, Nepal is not an easy country to navigate at the best of times, and both international and domestic aid have hit obstacles at every approach. In the meantime however, people have joined together to do what they can and make things happen – this resilient spirit is what I think really shines through in the iconic images that have come out on both social and traditional media.
One Nepalese friend and his family run the organisation Mission Himalaya (I recently wrote about their work here, after visiting their Eco Farm Home for Homeless & Orphaned Kids at the end of last year). They have launched the first “MH Help Centre” in southern Lalitpur with the support of Dooley Intermed International Foundation New York. It is estimated that there are around 72 families whose homes were turned into rubble here, including some of the Mission’s own staff. The Tanang area is a poor farming district and with 99% of the homes unable to be used at all, the Mission’s team provided free hot meals, free medicines, distributed of rice, vegetables, biscuits, snacks, instant noodles, glucose, soap and toothpaste, as well as water purifiers and pipes for drinking water, buckets and mugs, toilet cleaners, antiseptic, plastic sheets, torches and more. The coordinators have so far provided help to more than 300 people in the region and was support by a platoon from the Nepalese army who ensured the team’s safety and removed the temptation from looters. The team aims to continue this work, moving from village to village in the days that follow. Anybody looking to support this initiative can donate funds here.
Back in Kathmandu, people are grouping together, using social media to help them create relief teams of volunteers. With individuals now being allowed to pick up relief materials from the airport customs-free (they only need their Nepalese passport, the plan of where they will distribute, airway bills and cargo/packing list), this is enabling online groups such as Work for Nepal to pull people together, support each other and arrange their own clean ups and aid distributions across the Kathmandu Valley – watching them pull together and make this happen is so inspiring, every single one of them deserves a medal.
Another friend runs a charity Children of the Mountain, which builds schools for Nepalese children. The five schools in Tandrang are still standing and being used as shelter by those villagers who dare leave their homes – many are reluctant to leave what little they have left. The rain is heavy and it is now very cold particularly at night, and as I type the Children of the Mountain team are the only ones to have reached this area to provide support. They are desperately trying to provide the much-needed food, water purification tablets, blankets, medical supplies and tents to the community, and for anyone looking to help you can donate to the specific earthquake fund, which will go to helping Tandrang rebuild here, and you can follow their Facebook page to stay updated.
Here in Dubai, there are many organisations and individuals looking to arrange collections and non-financial aid, myself included for Children of the Mountain, through organisations such as The Red Crescent and with the help of the Nepalese Embassy, but with communications and staff limited, particularly in this region, the red tape and logistics continue to cause delays. For anyone who wants to contribute, please don’t be put off, we will find a way to get these items through, however the fastest and most effective way you can help is to make a donation, to either of the charities above, or through the Nepalese Embassy of Abu Dhabi’s recommendations here. Other international reputable and legitimate organisations are listed here, as well as ways to help donate blood, medical aid, water and food, and how to help find missing people, routes and communications (as an aside, I love the Nepal Earthquake Facebook Safety Check – great work Facebook, thank you for enabling people to share this so easily and quickly).
Over the last week there have been moments of real frustration and disappointment as we try to arrange ways to help people who are physically so far, but so close in our thoughts, but this is nothing compared to the emotions these people are experiencing themselves having lost everything in an instant. This is not something that will be fixed overnight and these people will need help for many months to come so please do take a moment to think about any ways you might be able to help, even the smallest donations will go a long way to buying blankets and food in India where these things are so much cheaper – you could have a lot more impact than you ever imagine.
Cover image of the scene in Tandrang, from the team at Children of the Mountain