Before the earthquakes, Ana Maharjan’s life looked just like ours. She woke up early and went to band class at 6:30 a.m., started regular class at 8 a.m., and went home around 5 p.m. after her other school commitments. She got home, worked on her documentary and maybe read the news or took a walk around the square just ten minutes away from her house. At 9 p.m., she’d realize she’d been procrastinating, finish her homework, and got ready for bed around midnight.
Maharjan is a student in 11th grade attending Lincoln School, an international school in Nepal. The two earthquakes that tore through the country on April 25 and May 12 have left over 5,000 schools damaged to an unusable state. Lincoln School may be one of the few schools left standing in Kathmandu; however, the issue is not only educational but social and emotional as well.
After our Skype interview, Maharjan made it clear that since the earthquakes, things have changed. Band has been called off. She attends classes from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and goes home to watch over her sister in case of another earthquake. She starts homework right away because she is no longer staying at her own house and won’t have Internet at night. She has dinner with her family, locks up the house, and goes next door to her uncle’s house where they all sleep.
The two earthquakes and the aftershocks that followed have obliterated monuments, destroyed buildings, and torn families apart. Jobs, homes, culture, and lives have been lost. Nepal is an earthquake prone country, but these have been the biggest quakes in over 80 years.
Maharjan published an article “The world lost a beautiful country that day” with NOW magazine recounting her experiences since the earthquake. Maharjan and her family have helped shelter over 80 individuals in her grandparents’ garden by setting up tarps and cooking meals for everyone who came, but most importantly, by keeping their gates open.
“The problem right now is that people don’t realize while yes, we need necessities like water and food, we will get those things. What people really need right now is psychological help,” Maharjan explained. “Right now the country is suffering a huge emotional trauma.”
Maharjan is just one of Lincoln School’s students who have offered both hands to those in need. Students have raised money to purchase material aid, organized food and clothing drives, written articles and taken photos to spread the word internationally, and even independently gone out to deliver material aid.
Brad Waugh is the Secondary Principal at Lincoln School and worked with the school’s administrative team and teachers to establish the Lincoln School Earthquake Relief Fund.
“The truth is that the devastation fell along class lines, with the housing of poor people collapsing while the newer, better built structures of the middle and upper classes survived,” Waugh said. “Much of the suffering here could have been prevented through proactive measures, both measures to ensure that all Nepalis lived in earthquake-proof structures but also more general measures to alleviate poverty and inequality.”
Many of us will read this in the comfort of our homes. Tonight we will sleep with our air conditioning on, bundled in our comforters and we will think about how lucky we are to live in a country untouched by the earthquakes and our hearts will ache, reach out, and think of those in Nepal. But in a few days we will be off to our summer vacations. On our way to our summer homes by the lake we will get caught up on summer shopping lists, we’ll get obsessed with who wore it better at the next red carpet event, and eventually Nepal will be put on the back burner.
The situation in Nepal is not a touch-and-go matter. After the relief, they will need to rebuild and recover; the process will take years.
Over 8,600 people in Nepal have been reportedly killed due to the earthquakes and twice as many have been injured. Many families are being forced into temporary shelters made of tarpaulins slung over some bamboo poles either because their homes have been shaken to the ground or because the damage makes it unsafe for them to live in. Others have opened up their doors to shelter neighbors and family members with nowhere else to go.
“It is important that people outside of the country not forget about Nepal as it falls off the international news feed,” Waugh said. “There is a wonderful opportunity here. If the outside world maintains its empathy and support for the people of Nepal to turn a tragedy into a wonderful example of international solidarity and to help build a better Nepal, we cleave to the highest standards of social and economic justice. The people of Nepal deserve it.”
Claire Bennett lives and works in Nepal, co-authoring a book about international volunteering. In an article for The Guardian, she warns us that “what Nepal needs right now is not another untrained bystander, however much her heart is hurting.”
So what does Nepal really need?
Bennett urges us to “not donate stuff,” simply because it is too difficult for any organization to distribute any secondhand goods. She suggests selling used goods and donating the money to a relief fund as an alternative.
Secondly, Bennett highlights the importance of funds. What the country needs right now is money, money to relieve, rebuild, and recover.
However, Jamie McGoldrick, the U.N. resident coordinator in Nepal is concerned that people are jumping over the first and very crucial step to the process: relief.
“The talk now is about reconstruction, but we are trying to remind people that in between search and rescue and recovery, there is a phase called relief and we can’t forget that,” McGoldrick told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
To top it off, there is only a small window for efforts to come into play and actually be efficient as well as effective. Relief supplies need to be bought and distributed before the months of monsoon season between June and September. On top of the damage done by the earthquakes, heavy rains would hinder efforts, triggering landslides or blocking roads used by trucks delivering aid.
Of course, the devastation has sparked worldwide aid.
Although no longer collecting donations, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, sent a notice to all Facebook users calling for help. Zuckerberg also offered that Facebook would match every dollar up to $2 million. In just one week, they raised a total of $17.4 million, $15 million of which was sent to the International Medical Corps relief effort. The matched funds were sent to other relief and rescue organizations providing immediate help.
Fundraising efforts have been launched within the SAS community as well. Freshman Sarah Du, president of the Butterflies for Nepal service club has headed efforts for the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) in Kathmandu.
“As a club that recently started, we didn’t get the chance to host big fundraisers. However, we’ve sold baked goods and clothing during the Woodlands sale as well as held two bake sales,” Du said. The club has raised a total of $1,500.
ECDC provides shelter for children whose parents have been incarcerated. The Butterfly Home is one of these shelters, providing a home for younger children also with parents in jail. Unfortunately, the earthquakes have left one of the levels in the Butterfly Home severely damaged, leaving the shelter uninhabitable. Du hopes that the club’s efforts will provide the funds needed to help repair the shelter.
The high school Executive Service Council (ESC) has also spearheaded a month long school wide fundraising effort called “Care for Kathmandu.” Along with a committee of volunteer students, they set a goal of $50,000.
Through the donation boxes set up throughout the primary, elementary, middle, and high school, the online PayPal account accessible to the community, as well as the Coin Craze fundraiser in the middle school, they have surpassed their goal, raising almost $72,600.
However, ESC has not laid their efforts to rest just yet. In addition to the donations from other SAS service clubs and continued donations through the PayPal account, they predict a final total of $75,000. Lincoln School will receive $25,000 for immediate short term relief and the rest of the funds will be distributed to different organizations in Nepal after the summer accordingly to their needs.
Maharjan expressed how grateful she was for the help Nepal has received: “I’m so touched by all of the aid we’ve been getting. I realized that when you’re the person receiving the aid, it can be surprising to see that people actually care.”
Want to help or know more?
Donate to Lincoln School, Nepal
Claire Bennett’s article