Despite best intentions, I didn’t do a very good job of keeping up with the blog after a couple weeks in Nepal. But that was not because of lack of activity! As the summer passed, our work evolved in a fluid way. For example, the preschool project in Dothar did not materialize, so we had to then rethink our strategy and our efforts.
Below please find a summary description of our work this summer, as well as a table listing everything chronologically. We are very grateful for the time we spent in Nepal and for all of the interactions we had with the people there. They are strong and resilient and resourceful. And we couldn’t have done any of the work without the support of caring people who donated. Thank you to you.
To jump directly to the itemized table of details, Click on this link:
Summary of MEPO work in Nepal 2015 post -earthquake
MEPO’s Work In Nepal, Summer 2015 – Summary of the Work and the Philosophy
There was absolutely no plan to go to Nepal this summer, but the sudden earthquake in the country where we once lived and served made it imperative to go back and lend a hand. During the two months we spent in post-earthquake Nepal we tried to target the earthquake victims, but as time passed, the range of needy people extended beyond those affected by the earthquake.
Our program started with health camps in various earthquake-hit areas in collaboration with the Nepalese Society of Texas (NST), in which the team saw over 2500 patients in 5 camps. Mostafa himself saw about 500 patients during these camps.
NST had collected extensive donations of supplies such as medical supplies (medications, medical equipment, blankets, soap, toothpaste and brushes,etc), blankets and granola bars. After their team left, we then received these materials and over the summer passed them on to individuals, hospitals and clinics, and at camps for those displaced by the earthquake in Langtang and Sherpa communities in Sindupalchowk regions.
Early in the summer, one village in particular during a health camp caught our attention, Dothar in Sindhupalchowk. As described in earlier postings, we visited the village, 3 hours away, on 4 different occasions, hoping to be able to focus our energy on helping one extremely hard-hit village begin to recover. They had received aid, and were now in the mode of waiting to begin reconstructing their homes. We did not have the resources to help with home construction, but after having given them mosquito nets, flashlights, and other basic supplies, we began talking with them about establishing a preschool for the dozens of very young children in the village. On each visit, besides having discussions and making plans, we also followed up with patients and conducted mini-health camps.
Unfortunately, even with all the discussions, the preschool did not materialize, for various reasons, and we had to let go of that plan. The village was just not ready.
Consequently, our attention turned to activities that would directly benefit individuals or families or groups struggling in various ways. Some of the types of support included:
- cash support to the Langtang IDP (internally displaced people) camp. This camp of about 250 people had relocated from Langtang village due to the earthquake, and were living in tents on the grounds of a large monastery in Kathmandu. While visiting there we met several women who had lost their husbands in the earthquake, and had small children. The camp was neat and organized, and were saving money to be able to rebuild their village after the monsoon. They also said they needed money to buy vegetables for the camp’s meals
- financial support to an IDP camp of 260 Sherpa community people who also had to relocate after the earthquake, coming from remote Sindhupalchowk to a tiny camp on a hill on the outskirts of Kathmandu This group was also very organized, but was struggling to fit over 200 people in a very small space. They were uncertain about how they were going to feed everyone long-term until the time that they could return to the village, hopefully in 3-4 months after the monsoon.
- toys for preschool children at the Sherpa camp
- scholarships to lower caste girls to study computers in order to further their education and opportunities
- donation for a toilet-building project
- financial support to families that had lost everything in the earthquake
- medical and financial help to those struggling with medical issues.
(Details about the assistance, the funds spent, and the number of people helped are in the table below.)
Along the way, our work was guided by some basic principles, within the physical constraints: since it was monsoon, travel was very difficult with landslides daily and bridges being washed away. We also did not have the extensive logistical support that large organizations have, and thus could not ourselves undertake large projects such as building shelters for people. Since it had been 2 months since the earthquake hit, it turned out that needs were not the critical survival needs, but instead were the needs that came with being displaced, traumatized, and having one’s life turned upside down.
Therefore, we knew that our strength lay in our ability to talk to people, visit their homes, hear their stories, and see with our own eyes exactly what they needed. We aimed most to help those who had perhaps fallen between the cracks, who had escaped notice. In times such as disasters, there is an enormous amount of corruption and hoarding of resources, and so we were very careful to check and see how much help (if any) someone or group had already received. We wanted to help those who had not received much, and who were honest about their needs. We also concentrated on those who were the most vulnerable, especially young children and very low income families.
Individual stories were compelling as we listened for those who had not been helped. For example, Chamar, the driver at the hotel where we stayed, is an older man who drives in thick traffic and pollution to the airport every day. He sleeps at the hotel, and is quiet and never complains. When the earthquake hit, his house was destroyed in the next district, yet he stayed at the hotel, one of only 3 staff who stayed to help the 150 guests who were staying at the hotel during the earthquake. He has few resources available, and so we decided to give him 5000 Rs ($50) to go towards his rebuilding of his house. His is just an example of the kind of ‘under-the-radar’ person MEPO aimed to identify and help.
Thanks to the dozens of caring people who donated to MEPO for this work, we were able to be flexible and responsive in what we did. Over the summer, our work varied from helping one single individual in crisis, to donating to an NGO (Educate the Children) involved in reconstructing villages in Dolakha that had been almost completely destroyed in the earthquake. They are undertaking a project to build 600 toilets in the community as part of the rebuilding process, so we contributed to that process.
Nepal is slowly making its way back, with reconstruction plans underway and people regaining the patterns of their lives. But the trauma is deep-seated; some people have trouble talking about anything except for that day in April. The slightest aftershocks elicit screams in the streets as people seem to immediately relive the terror of those days, such as what happened the very morning of our departure. After the rumbling stopped, the screams subsided, but those around us were trembling and wide-eyed and full of fear, craved reassurance with a hug or holding hands. So Nepal now needs time. Money won’t fix the issues of anxiety and fear, but hopefully with each bit of help that people receive, they can at least know that they are not alone in their lives.
Click on the link below to see the detailed table of itemized work and use of funds:
Summary of MEPO work in Nepal 2015 post -earthquake