Late one afternoon last December, on a break from a photography assignment in Kathmandu, Nepal, I returned to my guesthouse for a rest. After changing lenses and charging camera batteries, I lay down to relax in my fourth-floor room. Lying there with my eyes closed, I felt the bed begin to sway from side to side. “What’s going on? I thought. “Is this an Earthquake?”
My next thought: “Yes it is! Do I try to run downstairs or just wait it out?” I knew I could not make it all the way down to the first floor before the shaking stopped. “OK, just stay here!” I figured. A few minutes later, I remember wondering how buildings in Kathmandu would hold up in the event of a big earthquake. Unfortunately we now know the answer.
A rural country, devastated by earthquake
I have been quite saddened to see continuing reports of damage and hardship in Nepal over the past month. Friends in Kathmandu have been in touch via email and Facebook, with reports on the level of earthquake devastation where they are. Luckily, my friends are safe, but they and their families are still in tents more than a month after the initial earthquake. They and many other Nepalese will be living in makeshift housing for a long time to come.
How to reach Nepal’s remote villages?
With most large-scale international efforts concentrated on Kathmandu, emergency housing materials and tents still have not reached the remote villages. With the arrival of the annual monsoon in mid-June, travel will become even more difficult than it is now, and in many regions, almost impossible. What access to assistance will these villagers have?
The best solution: locally-based NGOs
Fortunately, a number of Nepalese NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) are providing assistance outside of the Kathmandu area, especially in communities where the larger aid organizations are not active. In my view, these locally-based non-profits are the best solution to provide relief to hard-hit areas. Donating to any of them will provide financial means to do what is needed at the time and what is immediately useful for the communities they support. Three organizations that I am personally familiar with are SKY Memorial Foundation, Curry Without Worry and Classrooms In the Clouds.
SKY Memorial Foundation
The SKY Memorial Foundation is a Nepalese NGO with a branch in San Francisco, USA. The charitable organization was founded to honor the memory of victims of a plane crash in Nepal, and concentrates its support for education and medical care in the Shikharpur region south of Lukla. Following the earthquake the NGO delivered relief supplies to Shikharpur, and is now helping villages that have not received any aid from the large international donors.
SKY Memorial Foundation is accepting donations via check to their San Francisco address.
In 2013, I visited seven villages whose children have benefited from SKY Memorial Foundation assistance to schools. Since that time, the organization has also worked with international donors to obtain an ambulance and other support for the region.
Curry Without Worry
Curry Without Worry is an American NGO in San Francisco with a sister branch in Kathmandu. The organization’s normal role is to provide free meals to hungry people in San Francisco and Kathmandu every Tuesday evening. Since the earthquake, the NGO has broadened its efforts to provide rice and other foods to Nepalese villages in need.
At the moment the Curry Without Worry founder Shrawan Nepali, who lives in San Francisco, is in Kathmandu directing relief efforts. Check out the Curry Without Worry website for instructions on how to donate.
I got to know the generous souls behind Curry Without Worry during my stay in Kathmandu in 2013. For more information, see my post Healthy meals for hungry souls.
Classrooms In the Clouds
Classrooms In the Clouds is a Nepalese NGO with sister charities in the UK and Australia. They have built schools and supported teachers in villages south of Lukla. I trekked with them in 2013 and documented their work in a number of villages, some of which have now been damaged or leveled. On our trek, the villagers let us know how much they appreciated the support they had received for local education.
Classrooms In the Clouds is currently distributing tarpaulins to villages that have not been reached by other aid organizations, and raising funds to rebuild village schools. You can support this relief effort by using the donate button on their home page.
Our good friend Gudrun Klaff has recently traveled and taught in Nepal, and on her blog Explore.Dream.Discover has listed several organizations providing assistance in Nepal (the post is in German and English, scroll down to the English).
The destruction inflicted by the recent earthquakes would be significant anywhere in the world. In Nepal, with its fragile infrastructure, it will take a monumental effort to reconstruct damaged public buildings, roads, schools, and hospitals across the country. With the help of a number of international aid organizations, this work is being undertaken.
If you have already donated to help Nepal recover and rebuild, that is great. If you are looking to contribute to local on-the-ground efforts, Anita and I recommend a donation to one of the locally-based NGOs listed above. Your smallest donation will be greatly appreciated by both the NGOs and recipients. Most importantly, it will make a difference.