Lily and team
Editor's noteOn the spot earthquake relief. Large relief agencies has difficulty getting started due to the chaos in Nepal, but on-the-ground volunteers are now working to help the needy. Lily and helpers are on location in Katmandu and is appealing for help.
UPDATE: Written May 12th. from Lily
In the immediate aftermath of the major quake that struck on April 25th, we gathered supplies and began to give buckets with basic food supplies—rice, dahl (lentils), beaten rice (this can be eaten uncooked), snacks, as well as water purification tablets, to some of those affected in the city. What we really wanted to do, though, was get help to outlying areas where we’d heard the need was much greater.
Bucket and contents to give to familiesBuying food in greater quantities, plus more buckets, soap, and blankets was easier said than done. The blankets especially were difficult to find, as shops were sold out and some shops were even cutting strips of thick cloth and selling them as blankets. Certain food items also took time to find. Once we got the items, we divvied up portions for 200 families.
Divvying up portions for 200 familiesArranging a vehicle to transport all of this, as well as government permission, was another hurdle. James and Subash worked hard to organize that part of it.
Our destination was Okhaldhunga, a district far to the northeast of Kathmandu, in the Everest region, where we’d heard there’d been a lot of damage but little relief.
Ragh divvying up portions for 200 familiesOn Sunday, May 10th, we were finally all set. We were a total of seven people—James, Ragh, myself, and several students originally from Okhaldhunga whom James has been helping. The bus was two hours late to pick us up—it had been getting its brakes fixed, though you wouldn’t know it from the ear-piercing squeals each time they were used. I found out just how hard it is to load up nearly 2000 kilos of food, plus blankets and buckets. But neighbors pitched in to help us and we were on our way at about 9:30 a.m.
We took the two-lane road from Kathmandu to Bhaktapur. In some places the whole road dropped and buckled. Traffic proceeded carefully. Soon we moved onto a very good road which has reinforcements along the cliffside and held up well during the quake.
All along the way, we saw houses that appear untouched interspersed with those completely destroyed, their inhabitants now outside under makeshift tents made of tarps. There seems no rhyme or reason to why one home has fallen while another equally ancient-looking one is standing.
Make shift tentsAs we turned towards Okhaldhunga the road got noticeably worse; at one place the landslide was so extensive that vehicles had to drive down a ramp built up with rocks and sand and travel along the banks of the Sun Koshi River for a stretch before climbing up to rejoin the road again.
Carrying goods over the narrow suspension bridgeAt about 3:30 p.m. we arrived at a long, narrow suspension bridge. This was as far as the bus would take us. If I’d thought getting the supplies together and leaving Kathmandu was a lot of work, I soon found out it was easy compared to what was ahead.
After unloading everything, we had to organize porters to carry it all across the bridge over the Sun Koshi River and up a steep incline, to where a truck could carry everything up into the hills to the village. A local member of the armed police stationed here was invaluable in helping us to organize the porters, but it still took many trips to get everything over. Despite the situation, people were happy for the work, and we soon had everything across.
The expected truck, however, didn’t arrive for over two hours, and it was dark by the time the supplies were loaded into the truck and the flatbed of a tractor. What followed was an hour and a half on a steeply ascending dirt road that had only recently been hacked out of the sides of the hills; before that, the village had been accessible only by foot.
This was the most harrowing part of the trip, as the road dipped and climbed up switchbacks. The thunder and lightning didn’t help—the truck was covered but the tractor had no tarp, and we worried for our supplies should it rain. Thankfully it didn’t rain, and we arrived at the village of Palapu sometime after 8:30 p.m., nearly 11 hours since we’d left Kathmandu.
After a night of uneven sleep, we awoke to a beautiful dawn. It’s such a gorgeous place of natural beauty, and yet, as we were to soon see, the scene of such devastation. Despite that, the village was remarkably clean, unlike some other remote parts of the country I’ve been to. There are no power lines here, but many homes have small solar panels for electricity, which the government subsidized about eight or nine years ago. It’s not a lot, but it’s something.
Palapu is the headquarters for the surrounding village area. There are about 1,025 households with over 7,000 people. So far, only a few tarps and a little food have come through to this entire area.
We walked to a village which was almost totally destroyed. Thankfully, because it was a sunny Saturday when the quake hit, everyone was out planting the new season’s crop. We met a woman whose baby had been sleeping indoors at the time and was completely buried, but miraculously was dug out unharmed.
It was overwhelming to hear the stories of the families as they showed us what had once been their homes. While I was grateful we could come and bring some relief, I could see that it was a drop in the bucket compared to the need, which is so much greater than the little we were bringing. Still, I keep telling myself that it’s better to do something, even though it will never be enough, than to just stick your head in the sand because it’s so painful to come to places like this.
James and some of the locals in OkhaldhungaThe village elders were of invaluable assistance, making lists of those whose homes and livelihoods had suffered the most damage and had not yet received any help. We had brought 200 food packs, and nearly as many blankets. About 150 families were identified in the immediate area that had been worst hit in the quake. The elders suggested giving packs to another 35 disabled people and extremely poor families who, though their homes were still standing, were also in desperate need of food since it has been in short supply since the quake. The remaining 15 or so packets would be sent by porters to a village three hours’ walk away that was also greatly affected. We are going to try to get more to this place as soon as we can.
The locals who helped us really put a lot of effort into trying to see where the supplies would be most needed. I really admired the way they went about it. Even though some of them had suffered damage to their own homes, they didn’t put themselves on the list, telling us others needed it more. I just wished we had enough for everyone.
We had planned to distribute the supplies and be back on our way on Monday, but everything ended up taking longer than expected. It was worth it to get it done right, though, and by midafternoon crowds had begun to gather. A small group of soldiers who’d come to the area after the quake helped us to organize the crowd. It took hours, as names were called out and checked off the list. It was exhausting and satisfying. The young people who had come along worked tirelessly and cheerfully; I don’t know what we would have done without them. The blankets that had been so difficult to find were among the most appreciated items—it gets cold at night up here, and those with fallen homes of course had all their warm things buried under the rubble.
Thankful recipientOn the last night, thunder and lightning culminated in a heavy, short storm. This was a mixed blessing, as the area is very dry and water has to be hauled from a distance, so this was needed for the crops. But it also meant that many houses that had cracked but not fallen were further weakened and things inside damaged. Also, it brought the very real threat of landslides, particularly on the dirt road we had to travel back down the following morning.
We woke before 5:00 a.m. to catch the truck back. I thought the trip was scary at night, but now that we could see where we were going, it was even more so. But we made it safely, sliding here and there on the narrow benches in the back, bumping and banging.
A bus was waiting on the other side of the suspension bridge—a villager had asked them to make sure to wait for us—and we left shortly before 8:00 a.m., picking up more passengers along the roadside as we went. The bus made good time, and the road was more downhill, and even though it was not exactly comfortable, I started to relax. Relaxation, however, would be short-lived.
It was nearly one o’clock by the time we entered Kathmandu, dropping a few of our young volunteers at their homes on the way. As we drove up the road, the bus swayed violently. An earthquake feels much different in a moving vehicle, but as people ran out of buildings and into the middle of the road, our driver realized what was happening and stopped.
We were soon to find out that another major earthquake had hit, this time with the epicenter in Namche Bazaar, not far from where we had come. This one hit the villages we left just as hard, if not harder, than the first. And I can’t stop thinking what could have happened had we been on that slippery dirt road driving downhill when it happened. That relief is tempered by concern for people there whom I’ve only just gotten to know, and who are in a worse position now than they were this morning, which was already not good.
And now I’m home. When I left Kathmandu three days ago, people were trying to get on with their lives: those who could returned to work, undamaged schools were preparing to reopen, the ripened wheat was being harvested. Tonight, everyone is instead preparing for a night out in the open; once again we are all filled with uncertainty.
I don’t really know how to end this, but I wanted to write it while it is still fresh in my mind and while I still have some power left on my laptop. The electricity is off again.
In the meantime, I wanted to thank all of you, Family members around the world, for your kindness and concern that enabled us to buy the supplies and make this trip. The need is overwhelming, but we’ll keep doing what we can.
Previous update: James wrote:
Lily, Subhasan, Ragh and I have been involved in the relief efforts since a major quake shook Nepal on April 25, 2015. I’m still sleeping in a tent, due to the instability, regular tremors, and the very real threat of another major quake.
We began a project called “Buckets of Hope” and so far have purchased enough goods for 247 buckets. We made a three-day trip to Okhaldhunga, a remote village that was devastated by the quake, to distribute the buckets to the most affected families. Each bucket was filled with rice, lentils, oil, salt, snacks, a blanket and bar of soap.
The day we returned from our trip to Okhaldhunga (May 12th), the second major earthquake struck. We were actually still in the bus and had just arrived back in Kathmandu when the earth began to shake. It’s a miracle we made it back, as many other trucks and buses that were traveling the road that we had been on got trapped underneath the landslides. The road is totally blocked in some places. No one has been able to travel to Okhaldhunga since then.
We are still hard at work on our project “Buckets of Hope” and are looking for people to help us buy more buckets, blankets and tents.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support for Nepal during this time. We couldn’t do it without you and know that the Lord will bless you abundantly!
On 27/04/2015 Lily sent us this note:
Thank you so much for your concern and prayers - we really need it! I have to keep this short as power and internet are in very short supply, but I am safe and so are the girls I take care of as well as the Nepali brethren. There's almost no power though and phones are sporadic, so I don't know when I will next be able to get online, I'm just at a friend's using their internet.
It's very sad, many have died. Please keep us and the country in your prayers. It's been really scary and there are still aftershocks, but I am safe, have food and water enough...
And on May 1st co-workers from the Nepal team published the following appeal:
Dear Brothers & Sisters, If you like to help with donations for the ongoing relief efforts for this mega-earthquake, kindly do so through paypal account, firstname.lastname@example.org, account of Ms Lily. Lily has been working continually in Nepal since 1995. The situation is urgent and supplies are running out. We (James, myself and few other national brothers along with Ms. Lily) have already begun our efforts despite still recovering from the quake ourselves. Please share this message to your links as well. We assure you that any funds received will be used solely for the relief work to the most needy. GBY!
Alternatively give via the "Support" button on the sidebar and specify "for Lily in Nepal." We'll make sure it gets through.