I was sitting on a rooftop overlooking the lake in Udaipur when the word came in. “Tell your families you are safe and do it now. There has been a massive earthquake in Nepal and Kathmandu is severely damaged”. I started panicking. My close friend who I had trekked with a bit over two weeks before on Everest Basecamp was still in Kathmandu. She had messaged me the day before saying her bus nearly got ran off the road by a gravel truck and how much of a close call it was. It wasn’t to be the last of the close calls. I was talking to her about fifteen minutes before the earthquake had struck. I didn’t know where she was, if she was alive, injured or whatever. All I knew was an approximate location.
For days we worried. Me, her family, my tour leader who grew up in Nepal. We worried. And we waited. Eventually news came through that my friend was fine, but as word came through about this, it came through that my tour leader had lost two of his friends. It was an devastating time. We had no idea of what it was that we could do to help and yet we wanted to help.
The Nepali government even now is still very disorganized. While I was there they had a traffic strike over their constitution as they haven’t managed to come to an agreement about it. Coordination efforts for delivering emergency supplies were halted severely by the lack of organization of the government. In such disastrous circumstances coordination is one of the most necessary aspects of getting relief to where it is most needed. It is no use having funds and supplies if they just can’t get to where they are needed. And this was very much the case. Half cooked rations of rice were handed out and no water to many of people of Kathmandu. Charity organizations did the best they could in the circumstances. My friend worked for a few weeks building huts and distributing supplies in villages. But even then this didn’t seem enough.
Locals started messaging their friends through Facebook and any means necessary in an attempt to get money for families and rebuilding villages. Many foreigners had their own fundraisers and took the money to Nepal themselves to distribute funding. While many of the people mean well and do the right thing with their money, you never quite know where it is that it is going. It is a tough thing to have faith that your money won’t be hoarded by the rich and organizations and not given back to those that are most in need.
I feel a massive compulsion to go back. As does my friend and so many others I know that I have been there. My support can go back in the form of hiking and partaking in activities and accommodations within the mountains. The best thing we can do in times like these is help provide support by travelling there and supporting business while they rebuild. I know then where my money goes. I also know that I can spread it around and share it so that it all isn’t going to one place or the deep pockets of those that don’t need it. It is a sad thing that in the biggest times of need for most, many take the opportunity to capitalize. It is always the case in moments of war and natural disaster.
So three months on…. The country is still strained. Things are still far from normal. Some villages still struggle to rebuild. And in the grand scheme of things, most people have moved on and forgotten. But to my friends in Nepal who still live with this everyday I am in awe of your bravery. To those who stay and help, I am in awe of your heart and compassion. My health was facing serious issues at the time and I could not have been a help at the time. But I will get back there soon. And hopefully I can make a difference in a community of people who even before this tragedy showed me great heart and kindness. To one of the most amazing countries I have ever visited, I am still with you Nepal. For now in spirit, but hopefully soon in body too.