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Residents With Ties to Nepal Focus on Aid

Monday, April 27, 2015
Hanover — Upper Valley residents with ties to Nepal are organizing relief efforts to the Himalayan country rocked by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on Saturday.

As the reported death toll rose above 2, 500 on Sunday, and while aftershocks hampered efforts to secure food, medical care and shelter for victims of the disaster, residents here assessed their personal losses and made plans to help those back home.

Bhola Pandey, co-owner of Base Camp Cafe in Hanover, said many of his family members in Nepal had broken bones, but none had been killed. He said the quake had nearly leveled his hometown, Naubise, which stands 18 miles from Kathmandu.

“There are only two houses left out of 300 houses,” he said. “All gone. Rubble.”

Pandey said he was raising money to build 10 to 20 homes, and planned to throw benefit dinners at his recently opened restaurant on Lebanon Street, which serves Nepalese cuisine.

At Dartmouth College, there are at least eight students from the mountain country, according to public relations officer Susan Boutwell.

“All Nepalis and friends of Nepal have been affected personally,” Pawan Dhakal, a junior, wrote in an email Sunday. “Our family members are not among the injured or the dead, but all are displaced and are struggling.”

Associate professor Sienna Craig, chairwoman of the anthropology department at the college, has worked in Nepal for decades, specializing in Asian medicine. She said none of her contacts had died, to her knowledge, though there were “many, many” people she had yet to reach.

Craig and her husband, Dartmouth lecturer Kenneth Bauer, are helping to organize relief efforts from the Upper Valley .

In a telephone interview Sunday afternoon, Craig advised Upper Valley residents to lend monetary support to “vetted” nonprofits rather than send supplies or visit the region in person. Among those aid agencies she mentioned were the Red Cross and Educate the Children , an Ithaca, N.Y.-based group.

“For now, I think the best thing for people to do, if they want to donate funds, is to donate to the organizations I recommended,” she said, struggling to find words. “Honestly it’s hard for me to know right now ... my personal inclination is to get on a plane, but as a civilian I’m not sure it’s the right thing for me to do.”

Craig said she was also coordinating with Nepali students who have worked on projects in their home villages, in the hopes of pooling resources directly from the Upper Valley to those towns. She said she hoped to have more definite plans within 24 hours.

Other officials and organizations here who were “key” in the Upper Valley’s response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake are banding together to provide relief, she said. Those include Jack Wilson, a senior lecturer at the Thayer School of Engineering; the Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineers; and Dr. Robert Gougelet, of Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the New England Center for Emergency Preparedness.

Most relief efforts likely will focus on the nation’s capital, Kathmandu, where the damage has been worst, Craig said. But the rural area, where “entire villages have been turned to rubble overnight, as well as world heritage sites,” should not be overlooked, she added.

The devastating temblor arrived as the country was recovering from “so much tragedy and difficulty in the wake of a brutal civil war,” Craig said, as well as in the midst of challenges associated with drafting a new constitution.

“And yet at the same time, (Nepalis have) incredible resilience and creativity,” Craig said. “And this is where I get choked up. Nepal is like my second home.”

If community members here are coordinated in their response, she said, they have the chance to make “profound, direct differences in lives and communities ... and some of those connections, be they in the form of money or human capital, down the road are going to be absolutely crucial to help Nepalis emerge from this devastation with dignity and a sense of hope.”

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.




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