Menlo Park couple spurs relief efforts following earthquake in Nepal

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on May 8, 2015

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Editor’s note: We’ve featured the work of Menlo Park residents Haydi and David Sowerine a number of times on InMenlo, first outlining how they started their Nepalese-based non-profit, Village Tech Solutions followed by an update about their work in the area of village Internet-availability in 2012. Given their long association with the country, we asked them how locals could support relief efforts following the recent devasting earthquake in Nepal. Here is Haydi’s response:

“As many of you know, I am on the board of Nepal Youth Foundation. We have had a number of communications from Olga (she has just returned as planned) and Som, friends and acquaintances. We are happy to report that all of the NYF staff and beneficiaries are safe as well as all of our friends and acquaintances.

“In the aftermath of the earthquake, NYF has launched a major relief effort to provide immediate help for those most in need as well as long-term rebuilding. With our experience over the last 25 years providing food, water and shelter, building 100 classrooms and 16 Nutritional Rehabilitation Homes, and currently constructing a large children’s village and vocational school, ‘Olgapuri Village,’ we are equipped to provide disaster relief now as well as in the coming months.

“You can see this video news link with Olga or read our detailed blog.

“I have also included what I feel is a very important letter written by Olga to someone who had asked if it wouldn’t be better to donate to a ‘disaster relief’ organization. Here is what she wrote:”

“‘Within hours after the worst aftershocks stopped, Som visited Teaching Hospital, Nepal’s premier and most efficient government hospital, and spoke to the senior doctors there. Within a few hours, 20 staff members were in my living room to discuss what to do and how to get it done.

“‘The hospital needed surgical supplies immediately to perform critical surgeries; Som authorized them to choose what they needed from the local surgical shops up to $30,000 and send us the bill. They needed immediately 200 mattresses and bedding to accommodate injured people sleeping outdoors on the bare ground or in the corridors. We had these to them within 24 hours.

“‘They desperately want to discharge patients ready to go home who cannot do so because they have no relatives to come for them, their houses have been destroyed, or there is no transport. They need the beds for injured and sick patients who are sleeping on the floor or outside, and they need the hospital staff to attend to these injured and sick patients instead of those ready for discharge.

“‘Today, we are setting up a facility for these people at the NRH, since there are only a few children left there, and it is a perfect place for this. It can accommodate a substantial number of beds, patients with orthopedic problems can sleep on the ground floor, there is an excellent, large kitchen with a staff trained to cook nutritious food, and a small medical unit. Forty former kamlari girls we are training as medical assistants are arriving in a few minutes from their training school in northwest Nepal to provide care. We have just ordered tents from a local, reliable tentmaker to house 1,000 people and provide them with blankets and mattresses (paid for by a donor from Belgium). And this is only the start.

“‘UNICEF and Oxfam cannot possibly provide this kind of instantaneous help. They can provide massive, very specific types of help to certain targeted populations in certain designated areas, but their focus is quite precise, expensive to deliver, and they do not begin to have the local knowledge we have at our fingertips to assess the critical and immediate need. There is plenty of scope for aid agencies here, but those of us on the ground with local knowledge can provide relief huge international organizations cannot. So we are not reinventing the wheel by our efforts. We are doing it faster and better than anyone else can.'”

You can make a donation on the Nepal Youth Foundation webpage or mail a donation to the NYF office: 3030 Bridgeway, Ste 202, Sausalito, CA 94965.

Photo of Haydi and David by Chris Gulker

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