One month after the first earthquake and two weeks after the second, while a good part of me wants to stay working here I have my own loved ones to spend time with as a matter of priority……… Hope to be back in Nepal in a few months as well as next Spring but, in the meantime, will continue doing my own small part from overseas - particular on the fundraising side for which some events are being conceived.
From the day of the first earthquake of 25 April, countless people have contacted us asking me what is happening on the ground, what is required and where they can possibly help, so am using this blog to try and answer as much as I can.
On the first two of these, while the initial earthquake (epicentre in the Gorkha province, west of Kathmandu) received global front page coverage for a whole week, the second quake of 12 May (epicentre in the Dolakha region north-east of Kathmandu) received far less coverage and for only a day or two at most. This despite the second causing nearly as much devastation, if not the same loss of life, as the first. The numbers killed in the second remain subject to some dispute.
My own small efforts in this, as previously written, have been to leverage my Nepalese, Thuraya satellite communication systems, medical training, acclimatization & fitness and self-sufficiency in expedition food and equipment by focusing on the most remote and highest settlements of the Makalu region after the first quake and, immediately after the second, the directly hit provinces of Sindupalchok and Dolakha in the northern areas of each province.
Those efforts were directed at reporting – on social media, to international media and to the NGO’s I had in support where necessary; medical treatment; satellite communications for villagers use and fundraising. Of all of these, aside from the reporting, the medical treatment has been my biggest demand – some earthquake related fractures or superficial injuries but a far greater number of general medicine requirements, particularly of diarrhoea and sickness.
As I have also previously written there seems to be a huge disparity in villages or settlements even just an hour’s walk apart - main villages on main trails seemingly being ok with police or army presence and, sometimes, a government health worker. But smaller, remote settlements still requiring help.
For those who’d like to know where exactly I have been for possible follow up help please contact on firstname.lastname@example.org. However, it is fair to say that what I witnessed over the past month is probably representative of the wider areas that I didn’t get to in these provinces.
Regarding the aid effort at a macro level, anyone who has been on my Facebook page for some time will know that I am a strong critic of foreign aid in its present form, which rarely reached the people intended and is primarily a sweetener (some would call it a bribe) to foreign governments to buy our exports - such is our dependency on economic growth. In addition there is a fine line between truly helping those in need and the more sustainable helping those in need to help themselves.
A disaster relief aid should be different. However the Nepalese Government have, by all accounts been a disgrace with numerous examples of incompetence, interference or overt control – refusing to accept the UK’s offer of three Chinook helicopters due to their anger at the arrest in Britain of Colonel Kumar Lama of the Nepalese Army; holding up truckloads of aid at national borders for weeks, refusing to release consignments in country for weeks; and restricting issuing of visas for aid workers unless they have a work permit, being just four reported examples. In none of these do the people of Nepal appear to come as a priority…….
The Army and Police teams met have all been a great help to me and my sincerest thanks for their support. I do question the need of 20 or 30 soldiers or police being located in small villages purely to secure one or two aid drops a day rather than being tasked on demolition work, patrolling and assistance to remote settlements or other useful tasks that could be added. However, they are only following orders from higher command.
With regard to the large aid organizations, whilst they have the money, resources and people – and, no doubt, some very sincere people working in them - I also have some mixed views on the large salaries and expense bills they incur. Publically all they ask for is money and not one accepted my, or likely thousands of others, offers of help, Yet privately they will concede that there is no way they can cover a disaster of this scale by themselves and they need people with local knowledge on the ground.
Which brings me to the true heroes in this disaster – the countless, thousands, of individuals, companies, and groups of volunteers in both Nepal and overseas who have come together, often leaving jobs behind, from the goodness of their heart to do what then can for Nepal.
That assistance, and the main priorities, remains distributing shelter (the monsoon is fast approaching and what has been delivered is still not enough), food, medicine and medical teams, water purification and rebuilding material, supplies and funds.
As to what people can do to help, on the fundraising side of course every little bit helps of whatever amounts and to whoever if goes to. If you do wish to donate to the fund I have set up for a particular area – which will go direct to people on the ground - your donations will be hugely appreciated, link for which is: http://www.youcaring.com/emergency-fundraiser/seduwa-school-complex-makalu-region-nepal/351434#.VU4PBF4Pmp4.facebook
For those who are considering spending a week or two climbing a mountain on one leg or running 7 marathons in 7 continents blindfolded to ‘raise money for charity’ I’m also going to suggest something here that may just disappoint some while galvanizing others…….. And that is, perhaps, that same time might be better spent actually doing some work in the host country – whilst raising sponsorship at the same time? As written above, there are numerous organizations that badly need and would hugely welcome help from people who are happy to get their hands dirty – erecting shelters, distributing rice, wheat or medical equipment, clearing rubble, simple building laboring work and so on. And with the ‘adventure for charity’ world in danger of being overdone, perhaps this is a welcome and more useful way forward.
A huge thanks to the numerous organizations and individuals who have helped out in large or small ways the past month as follows:
Thuraya, Raouf Khalifa, Xtra-Link, Hans Kuijt, Tess Kazim, Sam Voolstra, Sue Harper Todd, Tanya Perret, Quake Volunteers, Rebuild Nepal Medical Teams, Mission Himalaya, Gulf for Good, Lisa Read, Sue Tizard, Gray Mcculloch, Arnold Coster and Maya Sherpa.
And my other sponsors and supporters: Red Bull, Ten Twenty, JA Resorts, MEFITPRO, ZSI Trading/Marmot, California Chiropractic Centre and Dubai Podiatry Centre.
In addition to missing, despite their tragedy, the (still) shiny, happy people of Nepal, I guess I am looking forward to the joys of walking down a track without falling 10 meters down a landslide by day and, by night, sleeping in a bed without ants crawling over me, with a secure roof above my head and without the earth shaking beneath me. The things we take for granted…….. God Bless Nepal.