The day started by heading to the Metta Kathmandu Earthquake Relief Camp which is operating out of Nepal Academy in Kamladi, Kathmandu. RMF is incredibly lucky to have the leader of this camp in our network. The Venerable Metteyya Sakyaputta is a Buddhist monk born in the town of Lumbini, Nepal. His global recognition as a thought leader and as someone who achieves amazing things for the people of Nepal is rightfully deserved. Metteyya and his brother Rocky have successfully achieved creating a mobilizing of youth volunteers to identify needs, procure supplies, and distribute them in hard to reach areas.
Photo: Mettaya meeting with team members in the staging area
RMF is supporting these efforts both financially and strategically in the early response days after the earthquake while also building a strong partnership for future development projects across Nepal. In the first day:
- We dispatched supplies such as water filtration, solar lighting, and food with a team to Sindupalchuk, a very hard hit area, as well as a large truck of supplies to Dhading.
- We delivered food to one of the city orphanages, the Nepal Children's Organization (Bal Mandir) where the children had not received any food since the earthquake on April 25. We brought large bags of bananas and apples.
Photo: Cindy Stein, RMF's Director of Global Programs and orphanage director Chiranjibi Bandar and Lucky at the Bal Mandir Orphanage
- We also completed trips to outlying villages to bring basic needs such as food, water and shelter and assess the needs in places no aid has reached yet.
- The purchase and transport of hundreds of bags of rice and lentils to 300 nuns who have not received any aid and can only be reached by helicopter was accomplished. The Nepali Army brought RMF supplies and Metteyya to the site for assessment and distribution so we can arrange a larger drop of goods while the road is still being repaired.
- We are strategizing on long-term solutions for villages using our holistic model.
When we arrived, there was this overwhelming feeling of determination coming from the various groups of volunteers who were all very focused and diligent in their work. There are groups of volunteers who separate medications into bags for delivery to various places they are requested, inventory teams who closely track everything that is donated and everything that goes out, a logistics team that receives requests and strategizes how and where to dispatch, volunteers who make sure food is prepared for the volunteers to take breaks and care for themselves, and even a small communications center with a tent that has a computer and printer. All of this takes place under tents or out in the open. It is very organized and impressive. For RMF to be able to support their efforts, financially, strategically, and with logistics as well as guidance when it is time to move from relief to development is amazing.
RMF partnership with World Cultural Net
RMF is partnering with World Cultural Net, led by Dipak Sarkar, to bring aid to very remote areas that did not historically have access to aid before the quake. We met part way between Kathmandu and the district area of Phalametar in the area called Kavre. Two community leaders traveled to meet us and give an assessment of the 10 districts that had received no aid thus far.
Photo: RMF team and local village leaders meet to discuss the logistics of how to get help for the 30,000 in 10 districts in southern Kavre, which can only be accessed by foot.
Summary of our findings:
- 5,531 households are in the 10 districts that have received no aid yet.
- 3,227 of those homes are either entirely destroyed or damaged to the point of being unusable.
- Shelter is therefore the biggest need.
- There are approximately 30,000 people in this region.
- There are 9 health sub-outposts, each with a community medical assistant staffing it, 1 health outpost with an auxiliary midwife, and a referral hospital that is very far away in the Dhulikhel municipality requiring 4-6 hours of walking to reach the road plus a one hour drive.
- The schools have not been assessed but seem to be largely demolished.
- All materials have to be hand carried in.
- This area is otherwise self sufficient from farming but with no dry place to store recently harvested crops, food shortage has become a large issue.
- Water access is ok, not great.
- Electricity is not intact.
RMF and World Cultural Net members will hike in on foot to fully assess the district in order to assemble a specific procurement list and meet with community leaders to discuss long term plans. This will include meeting with those in all sectors in cluster meetings over the course of 2 days. We will meet with the following: traditional birth attendants, community medical assistants, teachers, and community leaders. We also assessed the town of Sakhu; it used to be a pilgrimage town for Hindus and is entirely destroyed.
Coming to Sakhu, still glowing form the joy of working with the Metta youth volunteers, was sobering. You can tell this village was important; the road leading there only increases your anticipation as you approach, you pass the largest statue of Shiva in the world, several pilgrimage sites for Hindus, and even a brand new water park that is far fancier than any I have ever been to in the US. Sakhu was an ancient town with old structures and was shattered by the earthquake.
Photo: Search and Recovery efforts in Sakhu
And it’s crazy for me even to see houses with belongings hanging as if a big hand just came down and ripped a house in half leaving pillows, plates, a single shoe, a teddy bear, just dangling from the second floor rubble. I cannot imagine what it is like for them to stand there and see their home demolished except for one lone wall left with a calendar hanging on it, intact, and perfect, in what used to be their kitchen, as if the wall has no idea an earthquake happened. Just so strange, like the most insane interruption of every day life ever. This will be a big psychodrama situation of course and the local hospital has one psychiatrist for the entire area.
Some silver linings:
Aside from volunteering, price gauging has not happened. It is still easy to acquire reasonable cost bags of rice in quantity in Kathmandu. Harvesting is happening all around the courtly at this moment so in addition to shelter, dry storage is really a big need.
Tents are sold out everywhere (even in neighboring India unless you go as far as Delhi which is what we’ll probably be doing). Metteyya and his team have volunteer seamstresses sewing tarps into tents as a troubleshoot. Also we are looking into procuring corrugated tin roofing to make things a bit less transitional than just tents. The issue is of course these things will need to be carried by hand (or on people's heads as it were) to get to the places we are working. It is hoped the use of helicopters will become easier to arrange but I have my doubts. Nonetheless, there are plenty of volunteers to carry items as needed but for larger scale, it will be a real challenge to rebuild entire villages this way, but possible. Of course, everything is possible.
RMF Partnership with Bibeksheel Nepali (BN)
RMF has also partnered with Bibeksheel Nepali, who has organized an incredible network of youth volunteers, a Hotline, incredible social media campaigns, and a large procurement and distribution center in Kathmandu. They receive, inventory and send supplies out to areas where they have received requests for aid. This is led by Ujwal Thapa. RMF met with key leaders there to strategize on how to complete needs assessments and mapping in remote districts that have not received aid yet. Among those areas are Sindupalchuk and Gorkha.
Gorkha is the epicenter of the quake and it has not been reached yet. At all. In fact the northern part of this mountainous region has not been reached except by helicopter. The issue is there is only 1 helicopter and thousands of people in these regions.The fact that BN and its volunteers are even attempting this is incredible and RMF is thrilled to support them in any way we can. Right now what that means is assisting with technical support in areas like developing rapid assessment checklists so the volunteers bringing supplies can also systematically bring back information to plan for the subsequent supply delivery trips, looking forward towards the planning and reconstruction phase, and of course procuring food supplies.
What is there bad to say about an organization made of the most determined and honest young stars of Nepal? Being at BN and watching the kindness, work ethic, motivation, and desire to help from so many young people made me feel like I was actually watching leaders being born. Just total amazement and what’s more, their logo is a simple smiley face! Who couldn't love that?
Photo: Entrance to Sushma Memorial Hospital
Sushma Koirala Memorial Trust
RMF’s fourth partner, the Sushma Koirala Memorial Trust, operates the only plastic surgery and orthopedic specific hospital in the country. They receive national referrals and serve patients who cannot afford treatment free of charge. Patients are on the floors outside due to lack of space in this 50-bed facility. There is a great need at this point after they have done hundreds of surgeries for prevention of infection of the post-operative wounds. As such, RMF will be bringing some of the materials for nurses to perform the high volume of dressing changes and antibiotic treatment. The hospital medical director and head Plastic Surgeon Dr. Jaswan Shakya has provided us with the procurement list that they otherwise cannot access.
In Cindy’s words: “It is just all so shocking. Seeing a single shoe, a teddy bear, rubble with cloves of garlic in it. Someone was cooking. Someone was sleeping with their baby. Someone was laughing with their friends when this happened. The acute interference of everyday life is what is so shocking”.
More than 8,500 people are dead and over 15,000 injured following a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit the Himalayan region the morning of April 25, 2015. Eight million people are affected across Nepal, and one million children are in urgent need of help.