It seems to me that the recent earthquake in Nepal left us all a little more shaken than previous natural disasters. Perhaps it is because many of us hold some sort of connection to Nepal. Whether we have been there ourselves, or simply have friends and family members who have travelled or lived there, this hits closer to home.
Perhaps it is also the amazing generosity of the Nepali people. They live in one of the poorest countries in the world, and yet they are some of the most unselfish people I have ever met. During my short time travelling in Nepal in the fall of 2013, I came across numerous people who went out of their way to ensure that my friend and I felt welcome and were taken care of. People who had very little, but prided themselves in offering the very best of what they had to take care of complete strangers. For my part, I was especially grateful as I spent much of my time incapacitated, having become sick only a few days after my arrival.
Whether it was the people at Places Restaurant allowing me to lounge for hours, bringing me blankets and water as I napped the afternoon away in a feverous state, the family we stayed with in Pokhara going out of their way to make me chicken noodle soup, or the family at Anandaban Hospital presenting us with a delicious feast and excellent dinner conversation, I experienced first hand their kindness. I never felt like a burden; instead I felt their delight in being able to help someone in need or just get to know someone new.
This experience was not an exception however. From stories I have heard from friends and family alike, all have been sincerely grateful for the friendships they have forged and the experiences they have had in Nepal. There is a reason why many travellers think of Nepal as a second home, and that reason is because they have encountered genuine warmth – no one who has seen the famed Nepali smile can deny it. I remember as I arrived in the Katmandu Airport, seeing a sign just above the entrance to the main terminal. It said something along the lines of “You can’t just come once,” and I now understand why.
Among the many people I know with connections to Nepal is my cousin, Damaris Waroux. Having both lived and worked as a nurse at the Anandaban Leprosy Hospital just outside of Katmandu, she has come to see many of her Nepali friends as members of her family. In fact she is in the midst of making a permanent move. Her friends have even gone so far as to give her a Nepali name: Jyoti Maya (which means Light and Love).
In a recent conversation with her, she opened up about her concerns regarding her friends’ current situations:
“They would normally plant rice within the next few weeks, and I am worried given the state of things that they won’t be able to do so.”
This is just one set back, in the face of many, that will hinder them in being self sufficient.
“They have lost everything. Plus the rainy season is starting soon and they will be more susceptible to landslides, floods, disease and famine.”
Of course, with all the media hype, people are rushing to help the Nepali people, but another point that Damaris brought up in our conversation was the fact that this is not a short-term commitment.
“Nepal will be vulnerable not just now, but especially over the next few months and even years, while they get back on their feet. I hope that people will continue to be generous.”
And so we ask ourselves – how can we help? What we really should be asking is how can we be helpful? A recent article in the Guardian brought up some points that I think are crucial to be aware of. You can read the full article here, but in short, the best way you can help immediately is through donations of money. The article warns against “brigades of do-gooders flooding the country” the way they did after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which the article described as a “wave of unsolicited and poorly planned shipments of untrained people and donated goods which was dubbed by some humanitarians as the ‘second disaster’”. Seeing as we all want to help rather than hinder Nepal, I think it is important for all of us to do our research. That being said, in the immediate future, Nepal will need everyone’s support, and the best and easiest way we can do that is through our donations and continued effort to bring awareness to their situation.
It is also important to know where to send the money that you are donating. There are many organizations who already have an invested interest in Nepal, and consequently are well set up to provide the necessary help. One of these organizations, which my cousin is currently involved in, is the Umbrella Foundation, a non-profit NGO. After the recent events, the foundation has paired up with GOAL, whose people have considerable experience in disaster relief. The two will be working together to provide access to clean water, food, shelter and medical supplies with a focused effort put towards search and rescue which they say “will be of paramount importance in the comings days.” Those interested can donate here.
In the meantime, my thoughts will be with Nepal, and I will be sending my donation. It is our turn to be generous.