I have a friend and former co-worker, Jade, who just a couple weeks ago jumped on a plane with her best girlfriend to jet from the San Francisco Bay Area to Kathmandu, Nepal.
These two young, inspired women were off on a grand adventure, volunteering with local NGOs along the way, truly dedicated to making a difference. Their first volunteering gig was in Nepal, with an organization dedicated to supporting those who are caught in the sex trade and human trafficking web. The organization they were serving, Volunteers Initiative Nepal, is a local enterprise focusing specifically on a small community outside Kathmandu. Jade and Danielle were ensconced with a local family and spent every day working on communication and life skills enrichment with the women and girls finding their way out of the sadly thriving sex traffic industry.
Then the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. It took many painful hours of waiting to learn that Jade and Dani are fine, though everything they were just adjusting to as their new normal is completely, and literally, upended.
They now have a brand new focus: getting vital food and survival supplies to the small community they serve. They are collecting food staples (bags of rice, etc) and blankets, temporary shelters, and other necessities. They would drive through the rubble and rapidly assembled tent cities, go as far as they could from the capital toward the village until arriving where the road is blocked by debris, then hike the remaining two hours to deliver essential items. With the slew of aftershocks, the district, Sindhupalchok, (with the highest reported death toll in a tragic statistic already more than 5,000 casualties in the nation, with some estimates anticipating that number doubling), has now been declared unsafe for these women to continue their direct handoffs. They remain in Kathmandu—Jade was donating blood this morning—to mobilize awareness, raise funds, secure supplies, and hand them off to the men of the village who are still making the dangerous daily trek.
As each of us searches our hearts about how to respond, where to send money, what to do…I encourage you to seek out on-the-ground resources that can have an immediate effect and not get caught up in international bureaucracy and huge organization stasis. The large international aid societies are, by and large, fantastically committed if not always as agile as I would like, but supplies sitting on an airport tarmac are not arriving rapidly enough to tip the balance of need. If you’d like to support the work of Jade directly, here is a link to her fundraising page, originally designed to support her human trafficking advocacy work, now refocused on immediate survival: http://www.gofundme.com/jadeanddanielle
Another fantastic organization on the ground and locally based is IDEX
Their most recently updated statement:
Nepal Recovery and Resilience Fund —
In response to the devastating earthquake in Nepal, IDEX is launching the Nepal Recovery and Resilience Fund to channel 100% of your donations towards immediate disaster response led by our partners, ASHA and WACN.
Organizations like these – that are already embedded in the community – are the first responders to any disaster. They know the region well, and in the early days of a catastrophe such as this, their staff and volunteers are engaged with first aid, light search and rescue, disaster assessments, and delivery of relief services.
Disasters and emergencies such as these affect poor people and rural women disproportionately. That is why IDEX partners are well-placed to respond and will continue to do so.
ASHA Nepal and WACN are both organizations that work with networks of Indigenous women in Okharpauwa, Chhaimale, Kavre and several additional districts in rural Nepal. Their collective membership is over 36,000 women in over 50 communities. Each of these communities has an autonomous local affiliate which have been serving as the hub of community development for years. They are uniquely situated as trusted leaders, educators, and resource people.
IDEX knows that local organizations’ contributions must be front and center following disasters, because it is extremely difficult for international actors to attain a rich understanding of local dynamics and needs on their own. Of course the international community adds value, but local organizations have been there, are there, will be there on the ground, responding to people’s most immediate and crucial needs.
There are so many organizations worthy of support, doing the hard work of disaster response. I encourage you to look deeply and discover the way you would like to make an impact. Times like these challenge our separateness and remind us that we are one global family. I only wish it wouldn’t take disasters to hit this lesson home.
Please use the comments below to let me know of organizations and foundations that you have found and support in their work responding to the crisis in Nepal.