An often unreported part of almost any disaster response is the pivotal role played by the victims themselves. Whether directly impacted or not, citizens from all overall the affected country come together to help one another and recovery.
NPR highlights how the beleaguered people of Nepal, long misgoverned and impoverished, have persevered through collaboration and generosity against one of the deadliest disasters in their nation’s history.
Meanwhile, an informal, chaotic and yet highly successful volunteer workforce of Nepalis, accustomed to self-reliance in a country where their government has historically done little for them, has stepped into the void.
You could call this Nepal’s non-violent revolution. Among the many participants: a Tibetan business community of carpet makers, the Corporate Club, whose carpet weavers come from Kavre, one of the badly hit districts. This carpet business has been raising funds and buying tarps and rice for thousands of families who’ve been identified by their workers. The Corporate Club workers drive their own heavily loaded cars and deliver the aid themselves.
The Nepal Villagers Earthquake Fund, founded by the diminutive but steely Shakun Sherchand in connection with local Buddhist organizations, has raised $140,000 and so far provided 10,000 people in farthest areas of Gorkha with food, cooking, oil, sugar and tea. Earlier this week, Sherchand sent her husband and son on an eight-hour hair-raising night drive with two trucks and two tractors and 44,000 pounds of food.
And then there’s the Yellow House. The bed and breakfast is now the headquarters for a community-built organization that has a mass following of donors and volunteers.
The group, which calls itself Yellow House, was created on the afternoon of April 25 by Nayatara Gurung Kakshapati, 33, a photographer, and a handful of her friends.
Their impromptu get together has morphed into an anarchic relief effort of Nepalis with a few Westerners. Strategies change depending on the needs of the day. Unregistered, it works outside the government system, connecting with people around the country and identifying each community’s needs. “We’re like a mushroom,” says Ben Ayer, a founding member. “The limiting factor for us is the supply, not the needs.”
The Yellow House has recruited via social media and word of mouth and has been overwhelmed with volunteers. Working with Kathmandu Living Labs, which does open source mapping of the quake and aid needs (quakemap.org), Nayatara and her group identify communities in far flung areas and send out tarps and food with its volunteers. It has been so successful that the UNHCR is using their network, to bring tarps to Nepal’s hinterlands desperate for help.
Here’s hoping the people of Nepal can apply the momentum of this grassroots effort to develop a better government and society.