Devastating Earthquake, 25 April 2015 in Nepal: A month Experience
NOTE: By this blogpost, would like to extend my sincere gratitude and thanks to all of you for your moral, physical, financial and all forms of support during difficult situation. I have tried to document few sorts of stories but not competed due to time constraint. I have taken few photos and videos but unable to upload due to internet connection so like to encourage to follow the facebook of Action Works Nepal https://www.facebook.com/actionworks/ and its website www.actionworksnepal.com On Behalf of Action Works Nepal, I have been continuously engage in post earthquake relief and reconstruction activities and learned so much, seen so many fluds, mis management of funds by aid agencies, starvation and tragedies of survivors etc. Here, I am sharing a month reflection in brief. Start
Proud Team:It was already nine o’clock of evening and I was waiting for the return of the team members of the second residential medical health camp from Ghartichhap, Kavre. The name of Kavrepalanchock can give the impression that it is close to Kathmandu but it is a six-hour drive and then seven hours trekking on a steep off road. While proceeding there, they were not able to reach it the first day due to a landslide on the way to Ghartichhap. This is an area where aid workers and government people do not normally like to go. However, working in rural areas is the strength of Action Works Nepal (AWON) since beginning. Because of working in the rural area, AWON managed to get permission to work from the Ministry of Health and Population right after announcement that they would deny permission for foreign doctors in the earthquake response. During first residential medical health camp AWON had doctors who were US based but of Indian origins, but this time all the doctors were from Nepal. When the car with the volounteers arrived they hardly recognizable under the dust but they still had the energy to share their stories of gain and pain. Afterwards, when everyone had returned to their homes in Kathmandu, I was thinking what AWON did well and bad under my leadership. I was sitting on a table next to the entrance of office and scrolled down the facebook page of AWON, I noticed that all efforts were pieces of rice at the mouth of elephant but AWON made it. I am proud of my team, their passion and commitment though it also had has several ups and down in a course of a month.
First earthquake, 25 April 2015: I was in Jumla, 2 hours flight far from Kathmandu. I was at the office of the CDO (Chief District Officer, Mr. Dipendra Raj Paudel) to assess the situation of Jumla because Jumla was next to the Jajarkot district that had a swine flu outbreak and got international attention. I also had other concerns to discuss with him regarding AWON e.g. Miteri Peace Learning Center, Jumla and other constructive activities. He had invited my friend Roshana for lunch because he is the brother in law of Roshana’s best friend. Further, he knew that Roshana and I were best friends since Maoist big massacre in 2002 Jumla through my book ` Khalangma Hamala’.
We had just have lunch and sitting on veranda. I noticed the shaking at first but I didn’t say anything. It was on the second floor of CDOs’ residence. At that moment I thought that this house was shaking because two tractors were riding on the road along with CDO office. It was long shock, Roshana shouted, it seemed earthquake, ..Earthquake …. She abruptly stood from the chair, CDO also stood up, and they ran towards the door. They were trying to hide as we had learned from media and trainings. But the bed was locked (so no space for hiding) and the house itself not adaptive even though it had been re-constructed after it was demolished in the Maoist Massacre in 2002. The CDO was pretending that he was not scared, but Roshana was so scared that she wanted to go down. I didn’t find a way because the shake was so unexpectedly long. Meanwhile, the ladder was not good enough. I was laughing and laughing. Roshana was angry with me and my laugh. I didn’t really take it seriously. We tried to call to our relatives and security personnel for assessing situation but phone’s network dead already. I tried to call to Kathmandu, Chitwan and other friends but none of the phone connected. I became serious when the phone didn’t work at all. Roshana asked me to go her room but I told her, no wait, I liked to know more details. I couldn’t remain without enough information.
Indeed, an earthquake has been expected in Nepal since long. It is the 11thmost vulnerable country in the world, and we had already so long gap of earthquake (about 80 years). About 1 billion dollars was used the preparation, but none of us prepared as we were supposed. It was a shame indeed.
I was not much scared because just three days before, we had felt a shake in Jumla. Same like this day, I was on the second floor for dinner at Kalika’s house (a friend of mine in Jumla since 2001). Kalika’s son said earthquake…. earthquake ….I said no it is not, if it was the utensils would fall down. This house is made from pinewood so it was shaking. After 10 minutes my sister (Usha) called me and asked `were you ok, TV said that Jumla has been the epicenter for an earthquake. Roshana and I made a joke` the patients of swine flu were abruptly stood up from bed, they pulled and threw the intravenous fluid and press on the areas of punctured and ran away.’ The earthquake swept away of swine flu, we all laughed …
Suddenly, the CDO’s TV was working with a few channels such as Nepal Television (NTV) and Indian channels. The NTV was shaking and broadcast without editing. Its office’s materials e.g. cupboard, lights were falling here and there. That house has resistance up to 8.5 so they could keep working but they also didn’t have much information as the devastating earthquake had cut down all communication. We knew that the epicenter of earthquake was in Kathmandu. I was devastated by the thought of AWON team members, my sister’s family and Asan (hub of Kathmandu valley), and Mangalbazzar with the very ancient houses. In the AWON office, my colleagues had decided to meet even though it was Saturday as that was the only a day in a week that our colleague Popular Gentle, PhD is available (he is founder/vice president and have a full time job in ICIMOD). At my sister’s house, all nieces and nephews, including my four months niece, were gathered a usual and they were sitting at the second floor to get some sunshine. I was trying to participate in the discussion of the CDO, Roshana and other people (police and other authorities started to join) but my mind was elsewhere. How could I get to Kathmandu in this devastating situation. My kids (10-12 persons) and team members would die due to poor housing; office building is poor and sister house was bought from other so considered that the not adaptive one). I also should die; I was dreaming that I would die by downing in Tila River, next to the AWON’s office in Jumla. I was planning for when and how for committing suicide. I was completely dead by mood. Later, Roshana was connected with her husband and knew her everyone was save in Kathmandu and everywhere through the another sim card (Ncell) of police inspector, Mr. Prem Bhadur Khadka. She was worrying about her husband who was working in Chitwan. I also tried via police’s phone but not succeed. I couldn’t try for longer because he was busy himself as he was in charge of the district police office.
Because of Roshana’s stubborness, we left the CDO office about 4 PM and went to her room. We didn’t have any means for communication except gossiping. My mind was full of thoughts of the people and houses in Kathmandu valley. Before leaving for Jumla, I was in Managalbazar for observation of art exhibition. I was in panic and just wanted to cry. However, if I cried what would be happen to Roshana and her friends, so I pretending to be a senior and composed person again. She cooked dinner, I didn’t have any interest but in front of her I had to eat. She spoke with her family by using satellite phone from via UNICEF but I didn’t get any opportunity to speak. More importantly, I didn’t ask anyone because they all knew me and connecting with family was in everyone’s interest in such situation. They didn’t ask me and I didn’t ask either. I was counting all people in trail to trail in Kathamndu valley and thinking about the death toll. Sometimes, the Dharahara tower came in to my mind, I climbed up along with my dad and Radha Pandey sister about 10 years before. There was a shake while we were climbing, I was dreamt the same again and again because I watched on TV that the tower had completely collapsed.
Hope began:Next day, I ate the remaining little rice from yesterday’s dinner and went back to office of the CDO. After almost 24 hours the phone started to work and of course internet. I hadn’t had the courage to call Kathmandu so I called to my eldest brother in law to get very factual and logical message. He said, you were lucky enough that your team and family members across Nepal were safe but all were sitting outside of the house such as road, school under heavy rain. He added the death toll in Sindhuplanchock, Gorkha etc. They also felt so big tremor in Chitwan so they were sitting outside of the house.
I waited for a few people, knocked on their doors, and called them directly in order to know about the condition of their families and relatives in Kathmandu. Everyone was in panic as they were no getting appropriate information about the situation in Kathmandu and feared that Kathmandu would have scarcity of the food and supplies including epidemic outbreak. I was following the villagers’ conversation and looking for way to return back to Kathmandu. Jumla town looked like after the Maoist attack, so shocked.
While feeling a bit calmer, I went to the office and turned on my laptop for internet. I literally cried when I saw the lovely messages from across globe. They were asking ` how is Radha? Is she safe? She was not updating? Any one knows about Radha? Where is she? What about her family? Thinking of you Radha ….love you Radha, please update as early as possible, sending prayers… At that moment I felt the gravity of love and respect from my friends. Earlier I always thought I am poor, I am a poor person from a poor country, I am powerless, I am alone…..isolated…. Now I realized that they are all my family members in a way and other as AWON envisioned in Miteri Gau-Let’s Live Together campaign. A few of my friends contacted to my sister in Kathmandu to inquire about me. I also followed the news from media. I was determined to work for earthquake response. Meanwhile questions came in to my mind, Action Works Nepal doesn’t have money, it doesn’t have money for ongoing activities. The seven different projects are running under individual’s donors and volunteer contributions. Too many questions came in to my mind. Why I am here? I was closing my eyes, feeling the tears, my heart was so warm and found they are my fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, daughter, sons, and grandchildren. I am feeling that I am living in so tiny global village, I saw a figure that I can see everyone from Australia, Austria, America, Africa, Germany, Japan, India, Sri-Lanka, Canada, Philippines, Egypt, Dhaka, Pakistan, Afganistan, Bhutan, China, Iraq, Switzerland and everywhere. They were hugging me, kissing me, holding me, and caring me. I was sitting in a very tiny and crowded room but living with single soul and mind of globe. I opened my eyes with determination, promised myself, and update my facebook page
April 26, 2015
Dear Friends, relatives and all across the Globe !
Thank you very much for all wishes, prayers and all towards my country, people, my family and myself. I am in Jumla so no connection after first shake 11.56 am (April25, 2015) so I was unable to connect with anyone till today morning at 9 am (April26, 2015). Now, I have connected with few family members and Action Works Nepal members and knew that all are safe in shelter. I am so humble to all of you and blessed.
My friends are in field to assist in relieve and rescue, if any of you like to support, here is the bank account of organization
Account Number: 00102050250092,
Account Name: Action Works Nepal (AWON)
Bank Name: Nepal Investment Bank Ltd,
Swift Code: NIBLNPKT
Bank Address: Darbarmarga, Kathmandu, Nepal
You also can find paypal link at www.actionworksnepal.com
PopularGentle Bhusal, Samjhana Poudel, Sarah Martin, Cindi Cassady, Esther Cassady, Saroj Dahal, Shanta Adhikari, Joanne Millar, Elahe Amani, Andrew Edward Tchie, Bharat Wasti, Rima Nashashibi, Dinesh Kareer,
Investing for building nation:Until today, AWON has not received a single penny from Nepal in terms of funding from INGOs/UNs and government. I didn’t get any connection with my team so I decided myself and came with two options;1) I would love to engage in EQ response by AWON, I was hoping to get support from my friends, II) the second option was to join any organization as volunteer and contribute as I can. To contribute for the cause, I didn’t need organization or position. This is matter of accountability towards the nation during a crisis. In 2006, second people’s war in Nepal I spontaneously joined in mass protest in Chabahil along with Kakri Uncle. I was felt so much accountable while I was watching TV about people’s war. I wasn’t satisfied with my role, so I went to Model Hospital to assist victims by myself. I didn’t know anyone there but I always held my nursing license in my fist walking outside during curfew. I always raised my hands to surrender so that the army couldn’t shoot me right away. The army was so kind during these days so I even survived while walking during curfew.
Hard to deliver at first:I could only contact Laxmi on next day of the earthquake. I also connected with Bharat Wasti but was unable to speak due to the poor network. I asked to Laxmi to assist victims at whatever level we can. I said we can spend at least 200 dollars now without meeting other board members no matter whether we get donations or not.
I added, I would take responsibility for the money. I would come when the flight resume, right now, just jump in for assistance. However, nothing happened that day as she was managing her family, all staff were living under tarpaulins, schools or open sky. I also asked her to connect with other friends and encouraged engaging because we survived. We could just have well have died, it was bit tough but truth as well. In April 27, 2015, I also had connected with Ramesh and explained the same process. But they didn’t follow what I was saying though I remained silent because they didn’t have experience and knowledge on disaster. I was unable to connect with Anita and Popular who were aware and expert respectively. I was really missing them in many ways, loved to hear their voices though I was aware that they were fine.
I was in direct Action:In April 28, I spoke with Anita as well and explained about the process. Fortunately, I also got the ticket for Kathmandu. In the beginning, I didn’t have a ticket, I requested to the Police and CDO to provide their quota, I was begging for help first time after formalization of AWON. I didn’t like to stay a single second in Jumla. Meantime, I also didn’t have money for a ticket. I went to Jumla without taking a single paisa (money) from office. There was a plan for sponsor but I didn’t. I had only six thousand. Out of that, four thousand was spent by Keshab for managing miteri children learning center. I had called Bishnu Rawat in Nepalgunj for ticketing since the previous day but he was saying that my ticket scheduled for second flight. The weather was so bad since the earthquake, the entire country faced heavy rain and storm so I didn’t like to wait until the second flight. I asked the Police again begging then to provide the ticket and called to Bishnu to send the money. Both options worked out and I flew to Nepalgunj at noon. I was flying via Tara (Yeti) airlines. In Nepalgunj airport, airline’s staff said that plane was flying back to Kathmandu now due to urgent call for earthquake rescue. Immediately, Bishnu arranged my ticket on this flight by cancellation of my ticket on Buddha at 5 pm. He said that there was no guarantee of evening flight; Kathmandu’s airport had heavy traffic. Yesterday,the plane flew from Nepalgunj only at 10 pm. Without any questions, I said, keep all record of money, I would pay later and I would love to fly as early as possible. In my 15 years flying history, it was second time that I was landing Kathmandu at afternoon. I was quite familiar with the geography while flying from Nepalgunj to Kathmandu from the sky. I was sitting with business woman from Jumla. We had intensive chat about earthquake, though I was so restless and I stop our conversation when we reached to Naubise, Dhading. I had had to see Kathmandu by myself. We were only four people on plane who were flying from Jumla. I was trying to figure out the damages of buildings and all in Kathamndu valley. I felt so nervous; feeling palpitation, restlessness and feeling to cry. I was feeling that Kathmandu is my mother and I wanted to hug, kiss and cry as much as I can. The plane entered via Kirtipur. My heart divided in two sides; one side keen to see Kathmandu and other side said that how can I see to my Kathmandu. I didn’t recognize any serious damaged from sky in Kathmandu. After I had landed, Bishnu called to Ramesh to pick me up. I really didn’t see any serious damage as media highlighted and as I expected. I felt relieved though Kathmandu was getting empty; there were queue of buses and passengers to get out from Kathmandu. My sister, nieces, nephew also left Kathmandu and went to the dad’s house (Chitwan). There was no traffic as earlier. While we were on the way to Thapathali (office) from airport, I noticed few broken houses, offices; people were under tarpaulins in ground of Tinkune etc. It was so quiet. Quiet sounded unusual. We reached the office where Anita, Shruti, Raju (Anita’s husband), Sarita were. I was pleased when I meet them and more happy that the office building was standing with multiple cracks. AWON rents only two rooms; one in ground floor for staff and another in roof top for Miteri Recycle though that house so important for us.https://www.facebook.com/pages/Miteri-Recycle-Center-Nepal/508155022598780
After a short discussion with Anita, Ramesh, Raju (Anita’s husband), Shurti, we went to the TUTH hospital for assigning five nursing staff for emergency nursing management as well as donation of 10 BP apparatus. We observed TUTH hospital, really can observed that pain in ground, everywhere the patients and visitors were lying down, the hospital was pouring bad smell and pharmacies were close, so much crowd. We went to the Nursing director’s office directly. We introduced our nurses and handover of BP apparatus. I went to the nursing director’s office 15 years later. I didn’t see the profession as we expected. It might be or might not be due to EQ. We had discussed ethical precautions during crisis management; we went back to office again and prepare for out of Kathmandu for relief work.
Cordination and Gender Responsive relief distribution: We prepared the materials for shelter, special support for postnatal/lactating mothers, widow, Dalit (so called low caste), people with disability, families of death, children below 2 years, adolescent’s girls, older and medical package for first aid with instructions, and food; beaten rice and dalmoth (noodles and biscuits prohibited). We also confirmed a pick up van and got approval from ministry of Health and Population, District Disaster Coordination Committee, District Public Health Office and Village secretary and village level social workers. We had communicated with Chudamani Bhandari who was from Ministry of Health and Population at Chautara, headquarter of Sindhupalanchock, one of most affected district.I had called to almost all people 24/7 hours whom I knew. They were from son’s of DIGs to the volunteers with whom AWON connected since long. I said sorry before they spoke and introduced myself with those who responded my call. I text messaged those who did not pick up my call. It was obvious that I was calling off hours in the Nepali context. I gained a unique experienced; many people promised to call back me but many of them never did. That day, Ramesh and I were sleeping at Samjhna’s house in Pepsi cola. I was speaking with loud speaker mode so he could follow my conversation from the next room. I asked to all my team members to speak in loudspeaker mode so that we can save time and energy and not have to repeat the message. Each second was so valuable for us. We had been talked with the DDRC and DPHO in Sindupalanchok but it was very difficult to connect and complete the conversation. In the beginning it was bit confusing, many of my friends’ phone numbers were off or did not pick up as they were busy in the disaster response. I tried to call Popular more than 100 times but he didn’t picked up at all. Next day, I got a text message that his mobile was on charge at the neighbor’s house. I was searching Facebook in order to get some more information. I saw a post from Nanimaya from Sindhuplanchok. She responded well but asked for support through her organization. Later, I called to Uttam Blon Lama, he said that we could work together and would call tonight but he didn’t call me back. Based on past experience from training and work, I decided to move on, and as result we went to the Ministry of Health and Population to discuss a way forward.
As a trainer of GBV in Emergencies and a practitioner I know that coordination is the most tough and urgent matter in working emergencies. We were waiting for a call from Mr. Bhandari for final direction as he instructed earlier for assignment. About 2 PM, Mr. Bhandari called and said, you have to considered two things; i) the area where you are going to Bhandarithok, Sipapokhari, Sindhupalanchok is off road so you need a four wheel vehicle to get in and ii) there were fighting and looting so please keep informing us as well as police on the way to Bhandarithok, from Kathmandu. Both concerns were expected but we didn’t take seriously the four wheel vehicle because we didn’t have the money.
Four wheel vehicles and driver: It was more expensive than a non-four wheel vehicles. Unfortunately, we had to postpone. My heart literally broken, I swallow my tears and updated my facebook “ In Consultation with Ministry of Health and Population, Action Works Nepal was ready for heading but Mr. Bhandari said we need four wheel vehicle, the whole day we are trying but don’t get any way’. It was so tough. Ramesh Pandey, Finance and Admin Officer, Bharat Wasti and myself kept on trying. Suddenly, I got phone call from unidentified phone about 5 PM though I picked up. It was Jo Hills, my friend whom I met since engaging in Nepal Social Business in June 2013. She was saying that she was trying to find it, also suggested contacting the facebook messages. We were busy cutting the mat and tarpaulin; I got the phone call from the landline of Lalitpur. I was aware that Jo lived in Patan so I simply pick up phone by thinking of Jo. Finally, she was. She managed a car without driver. Due to earthquake, many drivers went to their home for meeting, rescuing and relief of their families. Many phones didn’t work, the online vehicle provider’s also not working so finding driver also not easy. Jo forwarded her friends number who was ready to give a car. I was trying to call even though it was already ten of evening and I knew that she had kid. I had no way so left text message. At 2 am, she replied my message and I also replied right way. I was fund raising, talking with my friends who are living and working in western countries. Jo’s friend’s name was Cristina; she was deputy representative in RAP 3 program. I knew her position from security guard while picking up her car. We had made decision for meeting at 7 am with driver at RAP 3 office.
I was very restless, searching for a driver and no one helping me out at all. I was waiting to Sunman Adhikari (Shanta’s brother). He was also suffered a big trauma from earthquake. His newly constructed house had broken down, he just left his mother, kids in Chitwan, and had also lost his his father in law. He brought tarpulins and mats from Chitwan while returning back from Chitwan and went to the Sindupalanchok to search her father in law. Fortunately, he found his father in law. He called me from there when he found him.
In my consideration, he was best driver for me. The whole night, I was working, writing emails to all my friends, responding them. About 4.30 am I dared to call him and explain the story how and why I need the driver urgently. I was not sure that he would accept, as he had to settle many things in his business.
Fortunately, he agreed to drive the car by saying that “sister this is an opportunity to earn dharma (blessing from god), if I were die, did I get this?” I said that I would come with my brother in law. I was over the moon, super pleased. We met at the office at 5.45 am and we went to Ekantakuna before agreed time with Cristina. Suman was with his blue car, we exchanged the car with Cristina. Cristina, her husband and boy about 7 years old came by their car and we exchanged. I never know Cristina before, I met her for first time. She was saying that her office didn’t provide the security clearance but she had made the decision to come any way considering the current crisis. She was great, more than great. Suman had never driven a four wheel car before but drove excellent even in the very off road of Sindupalanchock.
Reaching the most affected areas of EQ, Sindupalanchok: We went to Bhandarithok, Sipapokhari, Sindupalanchok. It was first day of our out of Kathmandu’s trip so Ramesh, Bharat and myself were together including other volunteers. We were so sad while seeing the village. We had eaten chhole bhatura (snacks) in Banepa and we went to the destination. We had contacted local people as well. We all were in Cristina’s red car except Bharat. He had a pick up with relief materials. I was in front. All volunteers were chatting about their experience during earthquake; they were commenting on collapsed, cracked houses, we were passing through damages by the earthquake. We also saw tarpaulin made houses on the way. When we were passing Pachkhal, Zero kilo, the houses were more damaged and the team just remained silence. My eyes were getting wet, hardly trying to capture the photos. While we were passing Pachkhal, the few boys said, it was tarpaulin, let’s go for caught….., let’s go for caught…. We all were following their conversation. We had contacted local teachers including a female teacher from the same community. The female teacher went with together with two local people on bike and they were guiding us. We also contacted police/security with whom we met. As long as we moved on, our heart wrenched and eyes were get more watery. On the way, a few children were standing and begging for the materials. We were moving on though the situation was so scary. When we reached Sipaghat, almost all houses that were made from mud and stone had collapsed badly whereas concrete houses had cracked badly and could not be used for living. The road was becoming more narrow because of rubles. The faces of women, older, children were so hopeless. They were sitting or standing in groups of 2-3 persons. We crossed the bridge of Indrabati. Villagers were saying that the level of river was increasing. From bridge, we took left turn, off road. We observed a whole body of animal looked like pig or ox; we couldn’t identify what it was except domestic animal. It was pink in color and lying on the middle of the river in horizontal way of river. About 30 minutes’ drive, we reached a small village of Sipapokahri where a religious group had already distributed the few relief items such as noodles, biscuits, oil by hanging their banner. According to the villagers, this community was easily accessible so many relief workers were coming. A few women and men surrounded our vehicle and asked us for five tarpaulins because no one else was bringing tarpaulins. Mats were more essential rather than food. They were disappointed with us when we said no and they stated that they did not get the support they needed only what they do not need. I felt a bit scared by the situation, they got the materials but still not enough and I could see the children were walking over the rubbles. A few villagers from the same community were telling us that the road was so rough so our car wouldn’t be able drive and they suggested we left our things with them and they would help to distribute the materials later. The situation was not safe, I had already heard about such fraud, duplication, lack of coordination, from the Koshi flood management in 2008 and from others countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Haiti. In coordination with the local female teacher, we moved on and the road became more difficult as the villagers had said. The red car was in front whereas the other one was in back. It was planned because the red car can hook the second one in case it was needed. Because of the big stones and digs, the second car stuck. We all got off and tried to push but it didn’t work. It was very sunny day, very hot and we were feeling hungry and thirsty but we couldn’t reach out as we planned. Finally, I walked to village to assess the situation and found a place where we decided to distribute (about a km before the destination). Few older men were trying to see me by putting their hand over their forehead. We didn’t have any signs for relief work externally. I walked into village, called Bhandarithok, all together 70 families were there. The entire village had collapsed like 180 degrees, the village had foul smelling due to buried domestic animals inside house, and likewise unusually the flies observed. We didn’t start the distribution unless villagers arrived. Earlier, there were only men as elder, adult and youths. We asked to bring the vulnerable groups if possible, if not came up with death or representative at least. Gradually, we saw almost all except families of dead people because they were in death rituals that were so strict in Nepali society. I asked adolescent girls, why didn’t you come here? Didn’t get information about it? They replied, we knew about it but we didn’t believe it. Because no one gave space for women and how can we expect for girls. We never had have space in the community. Though we had local people but we didn’t involve them while distributing.
Process for relief distribution:This was our common procedure for distribution, we learned from the experience and try to avoid the kind of disputes that we had seen on media.
We quickly had a look at the village to see to what extent it was affected, numbers of dead and injured, and other socio-economic status. We also assessed whether other supports had arrived or not by asking/interviewing the elderly, children, women etc. We changed the venue if we got information that there was already relief distribution going on. We always focused on new places no matter how much difficulties we experienced.
We visits persons and families with special needs who were not able to come to the venue such as women who just gave birth, injured, people in death rituals etc.
Distribution started with a majority of family members who gathered to start the process by introduction greetings.
We briefly explained about AWON, ways for fund raising, process of approval, process of distribution, AWON’s priorities, transparency, expected role of community members, name lists of beneficiaries, verification of name and needs.
We double-checked that norms and procedures were understood or not and asked for feedback or comments.
We identified the location for materials collection and put out the rope to mark boundaries.
We arranged materials as priority. The distribution started from materials for postnatal mothers, pregnant mothers, babies below 5 years, adolescent girls, disable, widow, older, family of death and injury, other vulnerable groups such as Dalit, fishery group, indigenous groups.
Volunteers took responsibilities as assigned, such as clothes, mats, Tarpaulins.
We distribution of materials in three rounds.
We discussed about the perception of the process, feedback collection with women, children and triangulate the information
Volunteers: I led a few places by myself. AWON has limited human resources in Kathmandu although we were able to mobilize about 100 volunteers nationally and internationally. In Nepal, the culture of volunteering is still very immature. Even well off person hesitate to work voluntarily and people heavily discourage those who are working voluntarily. While mobilizing volunteers, we have had interesting experiences. Some were joining with their hearts and minds, demonstrating their generosity by actions, and didn’t care about family status, education, sex, gender or anything else. They come with snacks, sometimes home made snacks (their parents prepared for it), they donate whatever they have. Some joined for the sake of their personal interest to get professional experience, whereas others joined with so many requests in the beginning and started to bargaining on incentives without any flexibility in timing, travel, eating, and accommodation. Some were very vocal and made commitments but then sent messages that they were not able to join due to objections from their parents or their husbands in middle of night. Some were not sensitive of local socio-cultural context and did not follow the norms and values as AWON requested. Some were joining a day or two days, remained silent and never showed up and replicated the exact process in their organizations. In the end I am however very happy that the community is moving towards increased volunteerism.
At international level, I have mixed experienced while mobilizing volunteers. Usually, the email or phone came to me, they identified by themselves from google or website or via my friends. Volunteers came for 7-90 days through AWON. Some were so genius, followed the all procedures, accepted any kind of hardship. For instance, Dr Meena and Mekhani are Indian origin USA based medical doctors. They went to southern part of Kavre, next to the Makwanpur for a week medical camp. They had 6 hour bus ride and 7 hours walk in steep hills which was not easy at all. Some came and showed enthusiasm while applying or speaking over phone, but they were super lazy and not committed at all. They didn’t have any energy, no vision and wanted to go for tourism. I was ashamed to see such volunteers. Some insisted to come and they worked about 7-10 days, meeting here and there, used the time of the AOWN team and learned from us. Then they just stop to come to the office and did not respond to emails, sometimes blaming the organization, staff like small organization, no facilities, staff are not polite, they don’t speak English…. I put such volunteer under the exploitation category. During the earth quake response, my best friend were for instance Annette and Moa. They came for a week and left bit early after terrifying second hit May 12. They came with kinds for kids, went to field and engaged in proposal writing. They were super, they are not volunteers indeed, and they are my extended family. When Annette came to office, I felt like my maternal sister, feeling relieved and cool. Like Annette, few my besties were working so hard from abroad, they were along with me no matter where they were. They are Sarah, Esther, Cindi, Dr Edmund, Sujay, Bram, Lisa etc. The Nepalese Students Association, University of Florida also connected with me and contributed.I was very surprised when Ireceived donation from my supervisor while I worked in Nepal Safer Motherhood Project in Jumla 2001,Hazal Simpson. We never communicated but have facebook friends since long. She was the first person who started donation.
There was minimum process to mobilize the volunteers in as follows;
Confirmation, provide name tag of volunteer
Orientation of the process, the universal principles of working in crisis; respect, non-discrimination, confidentiality, safety and security.
Should follow the team leader in field while talking the leadership, do no harm should applied
No sexual abuse and exploitation, should ask for permission while taking photo of specific person or place or incidence
Stay in touch with AWON’s Kathmandu team/focal person
Update reporting everyday
Donations: In terms of donations, I am surrounded by amazing friends, relatives and all. I am truly blessed, honored by seeing the humbleness and kindness of the people, I encourage to work more always. As of May 17, we had $22,000 cash that come from various friends, relatives and organizations. I felt such a crisis of fund in second week of the earthquake. I mobilized many volunteers, I got requests from very remote areas, we felt a serious need when we saw the needs in the field but we didn’t have money at all. Meantime, the materials were so scared. We brought materials in thrice time higher price from boarder of India and nearby cities. We identified a factory for mats and connection for tarpaulin in second week but we hadn’t had money to pay as they asked in advance. All projects are operating in ongoing fund raising and volunteerism. I become restless. Popular is the expert, experienced in exploring funding opportunities, he has a huge network at the national and international level but I didn’t show his proactive role. He was silent in beginning and later was involved in developing concept note for chasing the funds/organizations. Bharat was working hard to explore opportunities and he was able to raise some funds. I became mad, really mad by seeing the situation. There was no any compulsion for work but I can’t STOP myself. I know very well that which organization had have the money for the response. I was following flash appeal and all updates from national and international portals for the earthquake response. I did contact my friends since long who are working in humanitarian organizations since long like Rita Dhakal, Bimal Gadal and so many others. I called to them and many others send the message by showing interest to work in partnership. I also heard myself that Oxfam people were seeking partners who have experienced on it. They were in the hotel in large numbers with their T-shirt and talking about it. I was following as they were speaking in English. I can’t speak English but I understand well usually almost category due to working with diverse volunteers across globe. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any information from anywhere, my friends even didn’t call back me. I dared to called them because they praised my work in interviews and I considered that they were my best friends and they would help when I had crisis. It was a funny experience that other donors recommended me to contact them for partnership when they were supposed to be my friends, I know well. I also heard complaint that INGOs are working with these NGOs who haven’t had experience on crisis management. In case of AWON, it evolved through emergency from extreme poverty, war setting and geographical hardship, in the most marginalized and excluded region of the country called Karnali. It was frustrating but I didn’t give up. I strongly felt that if I didn’t get funds, I would go to the field and work with the villagers and clear rubbles in the village where there was no human resources for doing this. There were ample of ways to help out. Before changing my areas of work, I made viral my message what I had in my heart;
APPEAL …APPEAL… APPEAL…
The grass root reality is entirely different.
The rural, isolated, marginalized communities are collapsed by 99%
People are living under open sky with traumatic feeling….
The urgent needs are TENTs, MATs, BASIC food items, First AID medical items, Clothes with special attention to postnatal, pregnant mothers, children, people with disability, widow, elderly people, family member of death who are in death ritual
Villages occupied by bad smell of decay of buried animals though epeidemic not erupt yet.
Psychologically, people are so aggressive and engaged in fighting, looting …..
Action Works Nepal are receiving many requests from rural areas of Gorkha, Dhading, Kavre, Sindupalanchok, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Dolakha
Now, we are running out with money. We COMMIT to display all expenses and everything once we settle later through our website. Now we are coordinating with Ministry of Health (government), reporting everything by phone and by providing hard copy.
If you are really love, respect and trust us please donate money, spread the word as much as possible.
PopularGentle Bhusal, Jo Hill, Joanne Millar, Shanta Adhikari, Ed Kellerman, Phil Kellerman, Sujay Lama, Jennifer Smerdon Freeman,Dinesh Kareer Saroj Dahal, Sara Sarah Martin, Alyson Martin,Emma ES, Tom Fox Linton, Rachelle AL,
Here is the details for paypal and bank account www.actionworksnepal.com
While I posted the message, Shanta called me from LA, USA. She is working as USA coordinator since 2012. She worked very closely with Esther for fund raising. She had surgery in her neck a just 10 days before though she never gave up and almost working for 20 hours for fund raising. We were in constant communication. My best friends started to work very hard, they kept on sending emails to their friends, and I also sent requests to all my friends. I got responses from many of them. I never heard from few of my close friends. We get donations from $ 5 to $ 3000 from friends, a few charity organizations sent $ 5000. Surprisingly, few Nepali friends whom I never knew but they were familiar with me by reading Khalangama Hamala, they contacted me and donated. Likewise, few relatives they never ever donated and speak up about my work, they also supported me significantly. Bhawana Bhatta who is my niece from Australia, Basanta Shrestha who is my son in law’s friend from Singapore, Bharat Neupane my son inlaw from Australia and Umesh Shrestha who is the brother of Ramesh Shrestha from Doha. My few classmates from AIM also significantly spread the word and encouraged to donate and few donated. Some contacted me and sent money from doing painting, music concert, yoga clinic that I never knew. They are just looking for the honest NGOs they said and they found us by themselves. Some were praising a lot but I never saw anything in the list of donations. There were three ways for donations; paypal, western money union and bank transfer. All donors weren’t familiar with all options so they chose as their wish and experience. The PayPal and western money union charge for the transfer. Some donors asked to put their name and organization right away in AWON’s website, some asked for letters and some requested to hide their name. Esther, Moa, Shanta worked for online fund raising through online. A few Nepali friends were came spontaneously and donated. At late evening, I called Ramesh Shrestha for managing four wheel car and tarpaulin but he came to office next morning with his wife and handed over a cheque. Likewise, Sonali Regmi, Gita Dhakal Chalise, Mamata Bharati also spontaneously donated. I asked team to purchase the materials in credit too. So we were doing crazy things indeed. As AWON practiced, we are collecting the drops of $$s and working at large scale. I strongly believe that we haven’t had much money but we have strong willingness and commitment. We showed the model to other NGOs who have money but not idea to working in.
I also got connected with visitors and organizations from my friends. A few communications and meetings remained so interesting and I would like to share them here. In the beginning, they kept on asking so many things’ such as government process, needs, scenario of field suddenly they disappeared. A few confirmed their dates, number of supported families, item of materials and suddenly they underground, no any communication at all. We recognized a few of them through Facebook and their website. Some came and told us that they had big money and wanted to get involved directly and asked for proposals. In an emergency like this, working on proposals is not easy, I always said that they should not expect fancy proposals at this moment, we didn’t have time. They agreed but later few asked so many conditions without any flexibility at all or remained silenced and doing bargaining. Some blamed us for being too ambitious, that we did not have the capacity and so on. One organization encouraged us to work with corrupted organizations but we declined. The earthquake response was becoming a great opportunity to earn money for many people and organizations. This is how, people and organizations were trying to suppress, undermine knowingly and unknowingly. We felt sad for a while and both then encouraged to again do what we believe in.
Some international organizations raised funds without prior consultations with us, they were using the name of our organization and my name but they didn’t share how much money they raised and for what purpose they were spending it. We only knew them when they contacted us later.
I took a lead role in field myself in many cases. I was in Deurali, Sipapokhari, Sinduplanchok where majority of the people were Tamang. Many of them are unable to speak Nepali well. Likewise, I went to the Basnet tole, Thum….., Sindupalanchok. In Kavrepalanchok, I went to Deurali, Gauribisauna, Naya Gaun, Vhirkot and Namdu of Dholka, Jeeban pur, Dhading. The overall distribution is same but each location and community was unique. Here, I like to share few interesting ones.
Avoid duplications:We were going to a Dalit community in Gauribisauna. We saw a van with some food stuffs (we saw biscuits, noodles, salt from outside) in front of us. I asked the local people about is as it seemed that van for relief distribution, could they verify where the van was going? If it was going to the same place, I would not continue even though I had complete packages prepared (tarpulin, mats, medicines, foods). I asked to stop our car and we got to know that we were heading the same place. So we went to the Deurali which is a mixed migrated community and marginalized. It is situated off road with streams in the forest. I went with a few volunteers; one got sick so I had to drop on the way to take a rest. We had two groups for the distribution, I sent the physically strong and experienced in Bharat’s group. We had heard in media that there were many conflicts from media in that area. I had volunteers who were new and more technical skilled as well, however, we did very nicely, I was fully satisfied, Suman helped out to proceed because he was not only driver, and he was good manager as well. When I started to distribute, people spontaneously clapped and say good bye in very happy mood. They were saying that patience is very important, one day god would see, Radha daughter you came here as angle. We had distributed Tarpulin and mats to family of deceased at Sipapokheri. We saw by ourselves that the people who were in death ritual, they were doing without Tarpaulins and mats. We were returned to Kathmandu by 11 Pm by picking up our volunteer from resting house. Drop off all volunteers was always challenging because we don’t have a car and driver to manage everything. Some volunteers did understand and asked their family to pick them up. We heard that Bharat’s group had very hard time to reach out the designated place. Due to huge protest, they failed to reach their destination and instead distributed the materials on the way.
Extreme political interference:We were in a Dalit and fishing community, Bhirkot, Dolkha. We verified the information about the needs from parliamentarians, CDO, police, village secretary and local leaders. It was a genuine place. We had two groups for that day as well. One group was heading to Rammechhap and I led the one for Bhirkot. We had so many enquiries from police/security who kept records of the details of our travel and papers. We always traveled with the approval from ministry and local stakeholders respectively. For security reasons we had to wait half an hour to 2 hours to clear at least 6-8 vehicles who were carrying relief materials. Armed police asked us to stay in queue until they had enough number for escorting. We waited for a long time in CDO office at Charikot. I had already spoken with him, our car was in the army office. I went to the army office directly, introduced myself by referencing my book and few army friends. The major released my car straight away. We reached Bhirkot village council office at 3 pm. I went to the village to see. There was a huge mess in the council office people were shouting, police and armies walking here and there. The key political parties also were there for distribution in their proportionate way. They were doing it by themselves by collecting the materials from donors like us. They were distributing materials four days after the handover due to this conflict. I explained the process and explained that I would not allow them to be part of the distribution. They were in particular resisting that I would distribute to the Dalit and fishing community. Finally, the political parties agreed to distribution and they came with their own lists. Later I got to know that they were cheating us. I asked them to bring us 100 of the most marginalized families from ward no 9, seven from Dalit and fishing community but they brought victims that were all same caste but from across the village as their political influence. We had a big dispute and people were getting aggressive. It was heavy rain, we were using tarpaulin as there was medical camp was on going from our medical team. The situation was chaotic. Later, we had partnership with security people, and we made it. At last, the village secretary was saying, sorry for inconvenience and we would send the appreciation letter at the name of yours, Madam. I replied, did you see our banner? Please use the money for people not for us; we have many appreciation letters already. My facebook update after leaving Vhirkot as follows;
We have had hard time today at Vhirkot Dolakha though we made it
1.Too much checking, escorting
2. Following Bureaucracy
3. Meeting with all party leaders/heavy influence by politics
4 . Very tough to extract fishing and so called low caste people and other vulnerable community
5. Sudden Heavy rain and very tough too protect people materials ans operate health clinic and entire work
6. The journey started at 4 am and may end by mid night
7 . Survivors agitated at last operation, brokr our agreed norms/we identified fake identities
8.Partnering with army/police and made it.
Always threatened: We were so hungry so we decided to get back via Ramechhap. We were looking for an hotel at Manthali. We also met up with the Ramechhap group. At the hotel we asked them to cook whatever available and then we returned back to Kathmandu. It was really too late. Our car was asked by a gang of boys to stop. We didn’t. After a while, we met another gang they throw stones at the car, my friends were scared and shouting. Sometimes, I felt more comfortable to walk alone due to the security concerns of volunteers in field, but was not always possible. We were arrived Kathmandu by 2 am.
Privilege due to female:In many places, I would have got slapped if I was a man. Survivors were getting so aggressive. Boys and men just got into the car to capture relief materials. I was literally begging with them to allow us to reach the most unreachable villages. I was constantly joining my hands and asking ….. Saying please please….! Sometimes, I myself sat in the outside of the pick-up due to looting. Sometimes, survivors alleged me that I was distributing many materials for a family or group. On one hand they were right that I was biased. On other hand I was doing a fair treatment because a family was composed of lactating mother, less than 5 years child, older, widow or sometime more criteria came for a family. The materials that were given for the adolescent girls (sanitary towel and panties) couldn’t be used by older people but often the local communities are not in position to understand this.
The literal translation of Jibanpur is hub for life: I was heading for Jeebanpur Dhading. We met a couple of religious groups who were distributing food materials from a van while leaving the highway. We were blocked in a stream about an hour before we changed the route to reach them. It was a mixed community of Dalit and higher caste. Compared to northern side of the earthquake region, there were less affected in general. The medical camp was started in one corner, there was long queue of clients; diarrheas, injuries, respiratory tract infection etc. I was busy in the distribution side after the onset of camp. Before that, I had made a quick observation of village. Saroj was with me. My throat was soar due to talking so much on phone and people. I asked to Saroj, could you motivate the people, they need tarpaulin and mats but not food. I saw the grains on the farms as well as broken houses. He spoke and the villagers agreed. They said eight families comprised of Dalit, poor, postnatal etc., were vulnerable. We agreed and gave food to those eight families. I went to a postnatal mother to see. She was a four days postnatal mother, the house was completely collapsed and she was living in a temple along with extended family, nothing to eat, dress up etc. We gave all essential materials to her.
Extreme heat over the hotspot: We had enough material, Bharat’s group was just back from the residential medical camp. After a second hit 7.4 rector in May 12 2015 (17 days later of first hit), Dolakha, Ramechhap were affected more. I was so keen to go there. We had very good experience in management and money as well. We managed the all sets and including volunteers. Some volunteers really enjoyed and worked hard in field. But the price for car was shooting up by three times, I couldn’t make it. The INGOs and UN were raising the rates everywhere; rental, car, hotels, materials etc. The second day, we failed to get a car. We followed the news that a landslide was coming up and the road was blocked badly. The helicopters were flying over these areas. We also heard that one of my friend who was a fellow of academic proposal writing course about a 1 month before and another close friend Brother Bimal Pokhrel was rescued by helicopter. It sounded scary. Volunteers and Anita, Raju, Ramesh were not happy with my decision and they kept on talking about the landslide and the blocked road. I called the parliamentarians; they were blocked by the local people that they were travelling with. So I decided to move on alone by myself. I have the confidence to mobilize the local people. I had a local guy from Namdu and a medical team from TATA motors. Finally, I headed off. While leaving, I was saying to Ramesh, `I wish this goodbye is the last goodbye,’ I was depressed since long but also said it jokingly. When I read his face, I felt guilt that I said such bad words. I always prepared my team about my life because I always take challenge and constantly getting threatens from various kinds of people.
Yes, there was a landslide, but the driver was so nice, young and dynamic. He had went to Ramecchap with Bharat the week before. We had a chat while travelling; he belonged to a Newari family but looked like a Tamang. He joined the Maoist as helper for 8 months and his brother was a combatant. I was asking him so many questions. Armies (Canadian, Chinese and Nepal) were clearing the road constantly, they were well equipped. I had a brief chat with Canadian armies while waiting, they brought an excavator all the way from Canada. I was counting to 150 landslides.. There were strong aftershocks but I didn’t feel them as I was driving. There were very limited connections on the phone so I kept on receiving messages from Anita, Ramesh, Bharat and Samjhna about taking care of myself. Later, I also get a message from Shanta.
We were targeting the farthest village of Nmadu so it took time although I escaped the whole procedure that I had to do the last time e.g. entries at Army Barak. Because, I knew that the police/armies were asking if it was your personal stuff or from the organization. They allowed for the personal stuff so I cheated him by saying it was personal stuff. Indeed, it was personal stuff too. We purchased from all single penny/donations so it was not like others donor agencies. We reached the off road destination in the hills. The medical team was following my car after Charikot.
After a short briefing, I headed for the medical camp.. Then I started to work for relief materials. We finished all checkup at 8 pm in between we noticed the aftershocks. We were ready to back but there was huge pressure from team. I consulted with local people and we slept in the village. That trip was without volunteer’s means without food stuffs for us. There was a few dalmoth and biscuits, I had already distributed to the relatives of driver while meeting them on the way. The houses had almost gone; many families were living in self-made huts. We also lived in the same house. I felt so bad that we didn’t bring rice to cook because we supposed to as back in the earlier days. We ate rice and gundruk soup and slept in a two row. As I heard about the bombing in Jumla during Masoist insurgency, the mountain were blasted after aftershock, the noise exactly same from mountain with heavy dust and we heard smooth music from the metal roofs while having aftershocks. The toilet was collapsed by 100 %, I went to a broken one where the local people were shouting anything can happened don’t go there and go for forest. I was thinking that the girls will be abused including raped while using the forest for toilet. Next morning, the villagers bid us goodbye with roasted corn and black tea, I was so emotional and literally crying while leaving the community. I so much bonded with the women, girls, children and all in a single night. They refused to receive money though I could have paid so that they can buy their needy stuffs as home. The man in family where I had dinner was a teacher. His father disappeared during the Maoist insurgency. He was so crazy for reading and collecting books, his mother was saying that he had book about $ 1000 and they just constructed new house and they also brought a cupboard to start the home library. I asked, did you hear a book of Madan purskar of this year. He was excited and said, yes. Immediately, he got sad and said, I didn’t complete the book, it was Khalangama Hamala, it is very nice book, it was buried as well. His mother was tearing off while he was speaking. I had dinner at one family and went to other family for sleeping. It was dark except from the light from the wood fire. The hut was attached in terrace so it worked a wall in one side. I was assuming the pastoral age as I saw in Stonehenge, London as well as in history. I asked his name and written in a book with best wishes and handover a book. Now, he knew that who was the writer of that book and I noticed that his eyes were full in happiness.
Feeling Guilty: While get into Namdu, I was avoiding consulting Army Barak as I did for Vhirkot. Due to constant aftershocks and landslides, my office and family members suggest that I either stay in the village or go to the Army Barak. I couldn’t go Army Barak in many ways i) I didn’t consult while coming in to village, they won’t be happy and nice once they did find the reality, ii) Barak also not safe at all, there were many personnel from non-earthquake Barak. They were less sensitive towards and gender sensitiveness in general as well as I noticed while engaging in relief work. I was alone with the driver so I didn’t felt secure and iii) Barak is also far from the Namdu at night. Due to lots of landslides, there were no vehicles on the road for night, no electricity and other facilities. No matter whether I had problem or not, I should follow the instruction to keep open all options for communication and avoiding duplication of resources.
Working off hours:we were so passionate about our work, it was a kind of mass ventilation, living together, eating together. Because of not having a bulk fund, we had to work hard for everything. We can’t order in bulk because we didn’t have money. Even the best friends were not sharing with us where the things were available. In the morning, the time was based on field trips. I am so strict on time so I came at least 7 am in the morning. In case of field trip, I was arrived office 4.30 -5.30. Usually, Ramesh was with me. Ramesh was on time because of me otherwise, I always first in office during the earthquake response. At the evening, it was not any certainty. If we weren’t in field, I worked till 9 Pm and sometime 11 pm due to internet. Couple of times we ate meal in office, we cooked in office. Couple of times, we ate in restaurant in third week of the earthquake. In my case, I always work for office no matter where I am. I just need the internet and a working phone. In some cases while the materials were coming all the way from boarder of India, Ramesh, Bharat, and myself (one time) went to Kalanki, or Bus Park or office at 2 am, 4 am, 5 am.
I returned from Sindupalanchok, it was already late, we arrived in Kathamndu by 9.30 pm. We were so hungry as I had not wanted to waste time with eating despite the wishes of my Indian friends Dr Abhitaj and his friend. I expected that the Kathmandu team (Anita and Ramesh) would contact us for food. It was not so easy to find food in Kathmandu after the earth quake, only some few restaurants were open and only for limited hours. I assumed that my colleagues had not contacted us due to the poor network but that it meant that the food was ready at the office and that they had told to security to rely the message or that they were waiting to us. Unfortunately, both assumptions were wrong. When I called them from Dhulikhel, there was no food. I was a bit angry and sad because I felt ashamed in front of the guests. Bharat was in next car, and we tried to find a restaurant from Tinkune to Babarmahal but no such luck. We had to drop off the guests in Thamel so we all decided to go Thamel. It was already late so no luck in Thamel either. Later, Bharat called his friend and asked him to prepare the fried rice and soup. Finally we ate.
Accommodation: The whole life was chaos, the second hit made it even more confused. After the second hit, I asked to all volunteers, drivers, staff to take the tarpaulins and mats if they required. Because in Nepali no one had prepared for the earthquake. We didn’t have a fixed place for accommodation. Two nights, we (Anita, Raju, Ramesh and myself) slept together at Samjhna’s house. I often brought the driver to Samjhna’s house because it was always more than mid night. I also brought volunteers after talking with their parents. Bharat also came for a day. I slept under a tarpaulin at Pepsi cola, at Sarita’s house, Bharat house. My accommodation was depending on the availability of transport because the local transport had not resumed and was not available at night even before the earthquake. I was in the same clothes for four to seven days, field office and everywhere. I had experience myself how much difficult to spend the night under the tarpaulin with no water, no toilet during menstrual period.
Aftershocks and Second Hit:Aftershocks are normal after an earthquake everywhere. I was in Jumla during April 25 so my friends were saying that I was not phobic and not taking the aftershocks seriously. I don’t know why but I don’t have any fear of death, especially after 14 November 2002. Ramesh and Raju were in such panic while we were together during aftershocks. It was a funny experience. Sometimes, it was like pushing chair like …hutta… sometimes; it was like pushing the bed from down like bhukka… sometimes shaking the laptop, sometimes feeling dizzy. I noticed that I felt more than 4.3 rector scale. I asked my friends to operate Miteri Recycle center from the yard instead of the roof top due to the possible damage of the office building from the aftershocks. Usually, I didn’t tell office members about the aftershocks, they didn’t felt it. They knew from Facebook or others. In May 12, afternoon, we were in the office, working for next day trip. One group was in the field for a residential medical team. Some were sitting and packing the clothes for adolescents girls and lactating mothers just near to the entrance. Anita and Ramesh were working in outside of the room and I was working in Anita’s room or innerside of the room. Three volunteers were packing medicine in the meeting hall on the second floor. Kiran and his friend were sitting at the window’s whereas Dikchhya was sitting in chair. Ramesh, Anita, and the volunteers on the ground floor all were running out. Kiran and Dikchhya didn’t move from their position and just kept quiet. I was pushing Dikchhya and Kiran and they were replying that sister it was aftershock no worried. I cleared the ground floor, the entire building was swinging, I felt the small noises due to small pieces falling out from the walls and dropping over the bags of plastics of relief materials. I was shouting and calling volunteers and staff and asking them to get down. At last, I was trying to exit myself. When I was at out on the road, there were many people were getting out too. Immediately, we gathered about 100 people at the neighbour’s house who has a big and wide yard. We immediately knew that it was not aftershock, it was another earthquake of 7.4 rectors. I had very hard time to get connect to everyone. At first, I called to field very wisely, because family members would get more panic once they heard about news. Fortunately I was connected with Bharat. He replied, we were all safe what about you? I also said that we were safe too and trying to catch others. I asked to Anita, Ramesh to contact all volunteers, staff as early possible. I connected with Saroj, Popular, Suman, and many others and updated in Facebook so their family members wouldn’t lose hope. I also connected with Bharat’s wife at his village in Nawalparasi. I was trying to connect with the family member of friends and relatives who are living in aboard. It was so painful situation. I also cancelled my meetings. I was so worried about Moa and Annette. I was more worried about Alva and Marcus by thinking of their position after getting update from Nepal. The news of the second hit was viral within half an hour and Nepal was dipped in to sorrow again. We served the people by providing water, mats because there were two pregnant women, ten older people and few children. We were bonded each other due to the earthquake. Later, we brought computers and started to work. About two hours later, we can’t stop. Volunteers were returned their houses to reach their families with tarpaulins and mats and we were working. I was worried about Kiran’s niece and nephew, they were alone at Jawalkhel so I called him to check whether he get in touch or not. Anita, Raju, Ramesh and I also went to Pepsicola with a tarpaulin and mat and slept on the ground of school. We cooked rice and Gundruk very quickly and went to sleep. We had hard time with drunk neighbors there though we were alive because we were together along with many aftershocks. When the aftershock occurred, there was loud screaming all over the town.
Stories from Children: During the earthquake response, I met with a variety of survivors; parents, teachers, youths, children, women, older, injured person, family of deaths, mother who lost neonatal babies, postnatal mother, lactating mother, pregnant mother, adolescent girls, widow women, people with disability, Dalit, poor etc. Here, I like to share the stories from the children.
1.“I was sleeping at chota (first floor), I felt shake, I was running and my house collapsed in a minute.’’
2.“ after returning from farm, I was eating lunch, suddenly the part of house started to falling down over my head, I never imagine that my such lovely house fallen down.’’
3.I was sleeping because it was hot of noon. Mommy shouted earthquake…earthquake…, I felt only shaking my bed, I didn’t know what is earthquake, when my house started to move then I was out
4.I was lying down, I though that wind was very strong, might had affect my house
5.I slapped to my brother, I was thinking that my brother teasing me by shaking bed where I was sleeping
6.My dad was never ever come when the devastating EQ occurred
7.I hate EQ, it was like curse, might the god angry with us
8.I don’t have house, I don’t have my parents, I don’t have school, I am alone
9. I was feeling shaking all the time nowadays, don’t like to eat but I felt so hungry, I have bad nightmare
10.I have to appear in SLC (school leaving certificate) examination but I couldn’t go school and no guarantee when my school opened. Teachers were saying it should open by next week but no way, nothing save in school too
11.I was so excited to go school, I did first in school, I have new books but my dream was buried sadly.
12.We were young girls, parents are saying don’t join to the mass with strangers’. We want to read, play, go to school like to help, like to join the EQ response no one allow us neither from home nor anyone.
I was following older women who were lying in a hut, near the collapsed house, over the rubbles and murmuring. Some women were living with cough, fever, running nose, injury in back, knees and next to the buffaloes, goats with lots of flies and dirty, ragged clothes. I try to compile their stories as bellows;
1.I don’t see, hear and I don’t know where the meeting held in
2.When neighbors left their hut, I wanted to go up to their but I can’t walk
3.I am super sinner (papi) person so I was living even such big EQ
4.I don’t like to live for a second here, I want to die………….hwa…..hwa…..(crying)
5.This is our luck; we can’t do against the wish of god. I am praying god for save me, my family and villagers
6.I just heard about 1934’s EQ, now experienced while dying
7.The entire village was collapsed within 3-5 minutes in front of me.
8.I nearly died because I went to inside the house to picking up grandchildren they were sleeping
9.I was just middle of the yard but the house fallen down and hit me badly, my husband was denying and didn’t believe on my saying……might god wanted him…..
10.I have severe headache, I don’t know why….( she had BP 180/130mmhg)
11.I have pain on my back and shoulder, I can’t walk properly
12.I was taking medicine for sugar but I don’t have medicine now, I don’t have prescription too, I am feeling weak day by day
13.My glass was broken, I can’t see
I was also following the saying of women and girls;
1.I don’t have clothes for managing the blood of my childbirth,
2.I have baby at the same day of EQ, I had labour pain after EQ
3.I was thinking that I would die because I can’t think about hospital due to EQ
4.She missed my two babies; one was just born and next one 1.5 years, they were inside and I was outside for drying their napkins
5.I can’t feed in front of my laws
6.There was no food for eating for postnatal women, our buffalo also buried, we couln’t save it and also couldn’t take out the grains, there was huge rain after EQ
7.My husband was in Malaysia, I missed him so much, neighbors have already clear the rubbles but I didn’t, neither I have money nor strengths
8.I always looking around to use toilet, trying to go in the early morning and holding till evening
9.How can I follow the restriction of menstruation in such situation, neither I can hid due to lack of clothes nor I get permission to walk around, feeling bored and frustrated with god.
Communication with family members: I strongly believe in communication. To me communication is life; we can survive no matter how much far physically. When I started to work voluntarily, I changed my style in my personal life. When I decided to work in Action Works Nepal my life got more challenging in many ways, money is a most important one. I need money if I wanted to touch with someone. Usually, even the family members wanted to stay in touch if someone can contribute. Finance is always power in any case and of course in family or personal matters. I shared to my all relatives, ` I would call if I have any urgency, if not, think that I am absolutely right or good condition.’ I often call my dad and text message or email to Samjhna about my status otherwise I didn’t call to any sisters, friends as earlier as I did before. I focused on work once I knew that all are ok. I don’t like to show what is in my heart. I want to live in freedom and dignity. I even didn’t call dad once Samjhna was with him. My dad is happy when he has his kids and grandkids around him. Often my sisters and dad complained to me but I never minded. I know my dad’s house also has cracks but I am happy and working with full energy that he is still alive. I decided to see him while I was going to distribute the relief materials in Kanda village of Makwanpur.
Kanda village, Makwanpur:by considering AWON’s resources and potential source of funding, I don’t like to spread out energy here and there since beginning. Might our government fail to mobilize the resources including NGO or it was normal pattern after disaster. We spread in nine various most affected districts. We got the approval or assignment from the Ministry of Health and Population so we followed and trying to reached out to the most unreached areas. In terms of Makwanpur, we have a different story. We were providing technical facilitation to Nepalease Nurses Association in UK and Sidartha Nepali Samaj, UK since beginning as partner organization. Tuka Sandwel who is my Guruama and the respected person in my life, asked me to assist in relief distribution in Kanda Makwanpur along with Kamala Pandey because she had already promised to the villagers to support them.
We had 500 Tarpulins, blankets and few materials for lactating mothers and children. Saroj, Subash, Dzene were together with me. I was heading out in two pick ups from Kathmandu. Unfortunately, our car broke down near to Baireni and we wasted about 4 hours over there while exchanging next vehicles so we were too late to reach the Kanda village. There was a big storm, hell stones, so the stream blocked us from reaching the exact place where the survivors were supposed to waiting for us, it was already 5 pm at….. (I forgot the name of river , which is boarder between Chitwan and Makwanpur, in northern side from the high way and next to the Kanda village). We should stop but, Kamala was unable to stay due to her son’s marriage ( the discussion was going on for confirmation). We didn’t have phone, electricity. There were a school and two houses with small shops. We met guys who were alcoholics. I wanted to continue the journey or like to distribute myself but Kamala and Dzene were not ready to leave me alone. Saroj knew that he can’t influence in my decision so he remained silent. Finally, we drop off materials in school and handed over to the local person who is the brother in law of Kamala as well as driver from government office in Kathmandu. While returning from Kanda village, I went to my dad’s house and met him. The next day, I went back to Kathmandu.
1.Dependency and dispute noticed: while I was in field in first week of earthquake, survivors were hopeless, they were sitting in the rubbles, trying to taking out the materials, using forest products and bushes for their hut. By the second week, many children were stopping us by putting barriers of rope and asking/begging for money. Visitors were giving huge amount of money like $ 5-10. Women and elders also gathered and talked about relief materials. While I was travelling in further villages, familiar faces including politicians and rich families were also in queue and shouting for the relief materials. I interviewed a few of them. They were feeling jealous of the poor and Dalit families because they got more attention by everyone. We need support to confirm whether our house could be used or not, we need support to broken these houses, start our business but no one was listening to us. This kind of attitude is very bad for recovery from the earthquake and the elite people felt marginalized.
2.Medical box to Medical camp; In the first week, we were making a first aid box where we were putting 25 items for simple injury, diarrhea, headache and fever. We added few more in the list of government. We explained all in details and also provided instructions in Nepali language. Later we realized that those who had big injury had already went to hospital so they didn’t need our support. There were chances of cut injury while managing rubbles and water borne diseases. So we started to conduct a day medical camp instead of giving a first aid box to each family. The camp would last for 3-5 hours depending on number of cases.
3.Relief to Recovery and Reconstruction: in the third week, we faced so many problems with relief distributors. We lanned to go, but then another group went there and distributed food stuffs. Those families who got the materials they were still looking for more and spending 4-6 hours for relief little support. Those who didn’t get anything were already given up the hope of getting because they were so depressed and had no hope at all. We also noticed that survivors were not interested to harvest their potatoes, wheat and vegetables from their farm. In this connection, AWON changed its strategies from relief to recovery and reconstruction. The stories what we heard from children, girls, women and older are painful. They didn’t get relief or satisfaction from the work what everyone doing including AWON. Survivors wanted to move, they wanted to send their children school, they wanted to get together for sharing, caring by and for themselves (gathering under the tree, following the shadow was not enough for women). As a consequence, we stopped purchasing the materials and started to collect the money for long term (at least six months) intervention for children, girls, women and older for promoting and protecting their human rights. We identified 8 villages from Kavre (4 from North and 4 form south) where are the most remote regions of the Kavre.
4.Funding flooding and scarcity: many organizations are working in earthquake response globally. AWON has been trying to get access to global charities and foundations as well as inside the country. We didn’t get access because we didn’t have any connections. We developed concept notes and shared with friends and we also tried to meet with various donors but without any success.
5.Team dynamic: AWON is growing horizontally as well as vertically at ground and over the sky but the challenges are coming as always. I am so straightforward with my team and outside of the team. I always say that I do what I speak. If I can’t do that I must take responsibility and ready to ask for apology publicly. If I commit anything wrong, I ready to hang or go for jail anytime. I am always pushing board members and staff to take responsibilities, risks and proactive role. Based on organizational norms and values, staff are working independently and there was nothing to hide. I n a few cases, they know more than board members. I witnessed one conversation between Ramesh and Laxmi that taught me big lessoned. The team members were not happy to take responsibility, making independent decisions and not happy with practicing accountability.
Here is the story. Laxmi went to the Chandrauta to drop her in-laws due to earthquake. Chandrauta is neighboring city of India. I was sad and mad due to not having tarpaulin. Without tarpaulin there was no way to do excursions. As is our rule, I was speaking in loudspeaker mode and calling all my friends who are living near by the boarder or have some possibility for managing tarpaulins from India. I also found Laxmi a potential candidate. I simply asked, how were you? When would you coming back? I also asked her to come as early as possible because we had many things to do. I didn’t have to explain each detail so I directly asked her, please pick up tarpaulin from the border and send to us, we are dying for that. She knows my style of communication since joining AWON. I was in such a hurry and worried, and I was arranging things while talking with her. She simply said ok, I will try. I was pushing her to try all options though I had less hope because she is not a risk taker and I know her style; good intentions but not proactive. When I finished the conversation with her, I was just sit at her desk to use the computer. She called to Ramesh, he was also speaking in loud speaking mode as we agreed. It was only less than 10 seconds after my call. Ramesh was picking up phone by saying, Laxmi didi is calling. Before hearing from her, I was thinking that he might not understand what I meant or she had questions or enquiry for Ramesh. She was angry with me, she said, Ramesh brother, that Radhe. ( bit slang and undecet) asked me tarpaulins………. Ramesh felt bad, trying to give her hints by laughing and favoring me, he was saying, didi was not saying anything, we were so busy and worried for tarpaulin but she didn’t have the patience to understand. Anyways, I was shocked. I never ever thought of her in that position. I always considered her as a younger sister. I was teaching her everything about development since last 2 years, she started her career from AWON. Meanwhile, I sent her text message, dear Laxmi, no Thank you very much for letting me know on time, I hadn’t had any intention to hurt you, if I hurt my sincere apology, take care bye. I learned that they; Anita, Ramesh and Laxmi were complaining about me, as a result she had confidence with Ramesh to shout about me. She didn’t even greet Ramesh before started to shout.
1.Change the strategy for volunteers:
After EQ there were two things observed; tourist denies visiting Nepal due to security and tourist like to come as volunteers. In social media, there was a viral of say no EQ tourist’ too. The situation was not safe at all in the beginning due to aftershocks, and destruction of daily things/infrastructure. Few foreign volunteers were contacted us and we decided to bring them. We thought that whether they contribute in relief or not, they can show up the external world that Nepal has still a place for tourism. In May 5 2015, a lady sends me the message and I had responded as below;
The 5 th May 2015
Email Address: ………..
Subject: Earthquake Response Volunteering
Message: Good evening,
I have been working on development projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries for the last few years.
My main focus has been on operations and project management – coordination, planning and organization, including financial management, administration, human resources, and security management as well as organizing field movements for staff. I also have experience in preparing communication materials for non-profits. Outside of my professional experience, I also have some direct hands-on construction experience.
I would be very happy to come and volunteer for a month or more, and would be comfortable with travelling to remote areas – whether by vehicle, chopper or on foot.
Please let me know how I can best help.
Thank you very much for reaching out.
Here, I am connecting with my friends and telling very shortly here, please forward following steps;
1. A letter of interest with signed copy.
2. copy of passport
4.$ 100 commitment cost ( you can use paypal or bank account)
5. Flight details
Then we will response accordingly.
We are so busy so please bear with us if we made mistake.
We were so busy; she kept on communicating and doing the things as I asked. We don’t have commitment money in the beginning days. Few volunteers were cheated us so we asked to deposit the money. Few were not able to come because of that though we strictly following this nowadays so we can assess their willingness even though it is very superficial. In one email, I get sensed that she was looking for job and I clearly mentioned that we can’t pay, we are volunteer organizations, the things what we are doing it is all about form the private and individual donations. Later she said, she wanted to stay at least 3 months on her expenses. Finally she came to Nepal.
When she came to office, she showed up that she was experienced in working in crisis. That day, I just decided to go to Canada and USA for training and joining at court (the story will come later as a form of book). I told everything, asked team to support her so she can work; I started to connect with my best friends, team members and also shared all documents, given title, business card and sending her to attaining meetings. We have only 2 rooms for entire work, we are working in very low profile. I know the status of foreigners so I asked team to manage separate room for her and asked to take care for accommodation, telephone and business card etc. as much as we can. She got sick and team members also busy to take care of her. This is all the practices of AWON because it believes in spontaneous love and respect. In order to build her confidence, I provided her the Job title as she asked. This is very normal practice of AWON, usually staff are in higher position than their capacity. It is because of building their self-confidence and providing opportunity. AWON believes that opportunity help to build confidence.
I also spoke with her via skype, it was very hard to manage the time due to busy schedule though I managed. I was expecting that she was working in office with full energy but I received the email as follows;
I’ve had a couple of weeks here at the office to get a sense of where AWON is at and I want to revisit how I can best and most realistically help you.
As you know, getting AWON’s development on to the next stage is going to take time.
Our ability to grow quickly and in the short term is, unfortunately, very small. The focus needs to be on taking steps now to develop AWON over the medium and longer term.
The most important tasks we talked about for me are along the lines of a consultancy: strategic planning, donors, etc. So let’s do that.
I will switch over to providing organizational development as a consultant/ advisory position and work with you and the board members – Popular and Bharat and others, if you think best. I will also continue to provide support directly to you because I think there isn’t enough support for you.
I’m going to shift to a part time and on-call function for AWON – I’m available whenever you need me as I’ve always been. My role will be a bit more like a temporary extra board member.
As you know, I came to Nepal to help directly with the earthquake response. Unfortunately, we don’t have the support from Anita for me to be involved in implementation – she continues to feel quite threatened despite my efforts to work with her – so I am going to be working with another NGO here in Kathmandu where I will have the chance to do direct health work managing services and operations for earthquake victims.
As I said, I’ll continue to work as a consultant for AWON and go ahead with the main planning, donor and organizational development tasks we talked about before you left. We need a capacity building plan among other things.
I’m sorry we couldn’t do more in the short term but let us focus on what we can do and also on AWON’s strengths! I am going to shift focus to the strategic plan as the priority now.
Take good care, Radha.
Operations Coordinator, Action Works Nepal
Mobile: Nepal: (+977) 986 047 8945
In response her above email, I have responded as below;
Very good morning from here!
Thank you for message.
Very honestly, I feel sad while reading your email.
I am talking with AWON members almost every day. They are super happy and excited with your presence. Anita is really happy that she is learning more and more with you.
Here are my suggestions;
1. Please do not leave AWON and do not try to escape with team members. Please have chat with them; I encourage having separate lunch meeting with Anita that gives opportunity to understand each other. Your role is building culture for organization. You are working in very diverse culture so you can bring any sorts of personality in to the mainstream. Anita is bit introverted personality as well.
1. AWON has enough space to work in health and directly earthquake related work. You can go field too.
3. I am very open and honestly sharing about AWON since beginning that means AWON needs a people like you to make it bigger and larger. If you shift your energy from AWON to other, it might unfair to AWON.
4. Now, I am in here, it take couple of weeks to get back country. If you diverted your energy I also so disturbed. I feel confident on you and sharing everything that you are my friend since long.
So I humbled request is please focus on AWON as much as you, you would be making history of AWON,It doesn’t has money that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have nothing. You can use many options and strategies to make more functional and strategic.
Hope you will be fine with me and AWON.
Thanks for understanding !
I was following the email from team members that she absent in office. Later, she wrote email to Hum by mentioning my name. She cheated me well. Here is her email.
Thank you for your earlier email. I’m well and very busy!
As discussed with Radha, I will be supporting her with some advisory work when she returns to KTM. I am working with a Nepali medical NGO on the earthquake response.
I didn’t have trust anymore with her but I have to make clear among my team members so I responded as below;
Glad to hear from you.
Action Works Nepal believes in spontaneous love and respect so we can’t push anyone for anything, we can do request.
My request or response is not like that. In conclusion, I have humbly requested you to remain with AWON and help to grow (please refer my email 12 days before).
Thanks for understanding!
In Love, Peace and Solidarity!
Ironically, she represented many meetings alone, she started to do direct communications with donors, she get all information and went left the organization with blaming. Now onwards, AWON will check the reference as well as won’t be very flexible for providing information and positions. Many god people would get restriction though we have to make it in order to avoid the misunderstanding and unnecessary hassle.
I was not sure whether I should go Canada or not? What would happen if I left the country? If something went wrong how could I survive over there? I had planned to go USA, there was very genuine reasons to go. I was away from communication. Anita was confirmed my participation and finally I decided to join due to the moral pressure of team and my advisors (friends e.g. Annette). I have mentioned this in my Journey beyond boarder so I don’t like repeat here again. In May 27, 2015, I left office at 1.30 pm with two small hand carry bags. This document edited by Annette Lyth