Update after the Earthquake in Nepal

The The Rigpa Shedra would like to update you on what we have been doing and provide a bit of a ground-level perspective on the situation in Nepal since the first earthquake.

When the earthquake struck on April 25, 15 students were still at the shedra in Pharping at Khenchen Namdrol’s center and there was still one class in session. Khen Rinpoche himself was here and provided great comfort to everyone.

All of us who were still here in Pharping organized themselves together to determine the best way to help the affected local communities in the Pharping area.  We share strong feelings to try to alleviate this suffering.  It took us several days to settle down, get organized, SEE what the real situation on the ground looks like, and figure out what to DO.

We watched the news of villages completely flattened north of here; we saw the pictures of our ancient Nepali temples gone; we saw injured people; we saw roads blocked by landslides, and on and on.  There is a tremendous amount of heroic work being done in Nepal right now. We realistically assessed our capabilities and left the rescue efforts to those who are trained for that.  We concluded that the best place to help is right here where we study every year for four months.

Together with other friends and supporters we have about $5000 already and have purchased some shelter materials already.  A contact at USAID also helped very much and we expect a shipment of at least 200 tarps, some of which will be taken into the neighboring district of Makwanpur, where many places have still not been visited by anyone.  We intend to extend our efforts into the Makwanpur district as soon as possible.

The Sogan Foundation  is the 501c-3 organization in the US that has been receiving donations for us, along with the Dolpo Tulku Charitable Foundation, which is in Germany. These funds are coming into the NGO – Earthgarden Nepal (please find us on Facebook, which is you will find regular updates.)   We want to sincerely thank those of you who sent contributions there or to any of the reputable organizations that are doing excellent work to address this massive calamity.

While Pharping itself did not suffer much damage, the surrounding communities have sustained heavy losses – mostly materials but also human.  These are communities that do not fall into high-profile areas of Nepal like the Everest region, but rather are in a kind of no man’s land – close enough to Kathmandu for everyone to assume they are taken care of but remote enough that in fact that have received almost no aid.  Mostly they are comprised of simple farmers and are mixed in caste.  They are made up of scattered villages some of which can only be reached by several hours walk.  They are not particularly glamorous places, on popular trekking routes that fulfill ideas about the high Himalayan fantasy, and can easily fall through the cracks.

Many places we have been do not seem to be suffering from lack of food, yet.  And some families are obviously better off than others.  But all those who have lost their homes are looking toward spending the monsoon season outside in some kind of shelter.  This is not a situation that anyone would welcome.  Some people have been able to already reuse material from their broken homes; others are just staring at piles of bricks and nothing else.  One elderly lady we met two days ago literally had nothing but broken bricks in front of her – probably in her late sixties, she is not one of the lucky ones to have a family member win the diversity lottery or children working in the Gulf supporting her.  I couldn’t imagine how she would begin to build a shelter for herself much less another home.

There is a need for help here and now.  There is also a need for long-term support, and we are committed to both.  Currently, even just a little boost in terms of some stronger shelter materials also provides a much needed psychological boost for people, who are reeling to make sense of what has happened and feel inspired again.  Knowing that their government and the world cares about them is so helpful, and the Nepali government does care and is acting and we are working closely with the local authorities here in Pharping every step of the way.  They have collected data on their areas and do know which families are really in dire conditions.  We will go to them first.

We have seen clearly that local efforts are effectively reaching people and we are happy to be part of this kind of ground-level response.  Such efforts compliment government and international efforts.

We have already begun with a first distribution of shelter materials in the Dakshinkali Municipality.