The 7.3 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday, May 12th took us all by surprise. The fragile sense of relative normalcy many of us were beginning to feel here in Kathmandu was replaced with renewed fear – are we really back here again? Now, much of the city is back camping outdoors under makeshift shelters of tarp, bamboo, and any other bit of material that will keep off the rain. Drew and I were lucky again – we both made it through unscathed and our apartment building did not withstand any damage. Instead of camping, we opted for a small mattress next to the door in the ground floor lobby/reception area of our building for several nights.
Walking around these past few days since the second earthquake, it’s hard to ignore the underlying sense of despair we feel emanating from many people in the community – at some moments, it’s palpable. But we all press on. Community grassroots efforts continue to be an inspiration, as groups of Nepalis and foreigners travel to ever more remote areas to deliver aid. People continue to innovate and push forward despite this set-back.
Since our last update on May 9th, we sent out more supplies (baby food, tarps, rope, and water purification tablets) with our friend Bimal Karki on two different relief trips, one to Dharmasthali and the other to Chhatiwan…
Last week our friend and partner, Sunil Tamang, returned from a six-day search and rescue mission to the Langtang Valley with stories and photos of the mass devastation there. He witnessed the recovery of many bodies, including one of a French national who -through a network of public Facebook pages- we helped identify. Sunil, Drew, and I made a report about this at the French embassy this week, and we recently heard news that the body was retrieved from the Langtang Valley and has been sent home to the family. This was a surreal and difficult experience, but we were glad to be of some help in providing closure to the victim’s family.
Originally, we hoped that Sunil’s trip would provide us with information about what kind of relief was needed in the Langtang Valley, but frequent landslides have rendered the area extremely dangerous and uninhabitable. Search and rescue missions have now been suspended, and all of the remaining survivors from Langtang Valley have been evacuated to Kathmandu to a refugee camp on the grounds of the Yellow Gompa, a Buddhist monastery on the western edge of the city. Coordinating with Rasuwa Relief for distribution, Drew and I were able to buy seven large tarps for the camp with your donations.
Before May 12th’s earthquake, Drew participated in a three-day relief trip to the Rasuwa district with Rasuwa Relief. Stationed in Syaphru Bensi, he helped distribute supplies purchased by Rasuwa Relief, including tarps, medicine, water purification tablets, etc., which were then carried by porters to the villages of Kamjin, Sherpa Gaun, and Bribbim.
While there, Drew (with the help of Sunil’s cousin, Pappu) also conducted an independent survey of some 200 households that are now living outside as a result of April 25th’s earthquake, gathering data on how many people need materials for constructing shelters that will better weather the coming monsoon.
Some photos of damaged homes and businesses in ‘Old Syaphru,’ the historic section of town…
Sunil left today to deliver relief supplies to Syaphru Bensi and surrounding areas. While there, he will also collect more information on the displaced households Drew identified in his initial survey in order to determine which among them have the most pressing need for improved shelters. Once this is complete, we will work with Sunil and other local contacts to determine exactly which materials would be most useful for this purpose. We will then use your donations to buy these materials and deliver them to Syaphru Bensi in the coming weeks. As the need for immediate relief materials (food, medicine, tarps, etc.) is beginning to diminish and monsoon fast approaches, we feel that -as an independently run operation with limited resources- this is one of the most effective ways we can use your donations. Of course, we will continue to update you on this project as plans progress.
In fact, if you (or someone you think might be interested) have not yet donated, now is a good time. Initial estimates indicate that the costs for our burgeoning monsoon shelter project in Syaphru Bensi will stretch beyond the funds we’ve raised thus far. Please take a look at our initial appeal for donations here to learn how to donate.
Also, please check out this map which marks the areas where your donation dollars have sent relief materials thus far (via the various grassroots ‘distribution teams’ that we have been working with). Some locations marked on the map are approximate, as Google has not yet accurately mapped all regions of Nepal, but it will give you a general idea. (Click on the red markers to see the names of each location).
This week’s numbers and some administrative notes-
Funds raised since our last update (May 9th): $1,970
Total funds raised: $8,197.36
Funds spent since our last update (May 9th): $652.51
Total funds spent: $2,186.48
Funds leftover for Syaphru Bensi shelters: $6,010.88
(If you would like to see an itemized list of expenditures, please email bkm@brennakmurphy).
We’d also like to clarify how we are accounting for administrative costs, namely ATM fees and transportation. When we withdraw cash for buying relief supplies, we withdraw the largest amount of money possible in order to make the best use of the fixed 400 NPR ($4) ATM fee. To be clear, this $4 ATM fee IS being deducted from the relief fund. However, the 1% fee that my US bank charges for each ATM transaction is NOT being deducted from the relief fund – this is one small way in which we can personally contribute (financially) to the overall relief effort. In the case of transportation, we only consider the costs associated with delivering supplies to the local ‘distribution teams’ as deductible from the relief fund. For example, when we take a taxi loaded with relief supplies from our house/neighborhood to a ‘distribution team’ working out of Kathmandu’s Thamel neighborhood, we deduct the cost of that trip from the relief fund. However, we do NOT deduct the cost of our bus or taxi ride back home after the supplies have been delivered. If you have any questions regarding our accounting, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And once again, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has already donated and/or spread the word about ways to aid Nepal’s recovery after these traumatic events. We appreciate all your love and support, and are so grateful for all that you do!
More updates coming soon…