Many people have asked about our family in Nepal over the past two weeks since the earthquake. The concern that this community has shown for those so far away is truly heartwarming and we appreciate it more than we can say. People have asked for updates and asked what they can do to help. This post will be repetitive for those who have followed along on Facebook, or who saw the article in the Rapp News (thank you Roger Piantadosi!), but I wanted to post some details, and also let everyone know we are having a fundraiser a week from this evening, on Friday, May 15 at the Rappahannock Park at 7 p.m.
Our son Amrit, who graduated from RCHS last year and is now finishing his freshman year at George Mason University, will be traveling to Nepal on the May 18 to do what he can to help the extended family in Nepal with earthquake relief. Part of the goal of this fundraiser is to equip him and finance his relief efforts over the next two months.
Our extended family lives in Nuwakot District, which is a rural area just north of Kathmandu. It was third hardest hit in terms of loss of life. Our family has been extremely fortunate in that no one in the family has been killed, as far as we know, although several of their neighbors did lose their lives. The fact that the earthquake happened at noon, when most people in the villages are out in the fields working, or at least out and about, is the silver lining to an otherwise horrific event.
Reports we have read and heard say that 80 to 90 percent of the houses in Nuwakot District have been badly damaged or destroyed. Relatives we have spoken with say this is also true in the villages of Kalche and Tutung, where most of our extended family lives. We are particularly concerned about Surja’s parents, who are in their late 80s and now living under a tarp because half of their house has collapsed and the other half is not safe to live in. Amrit’s mom’s house has completely collapsed. These houses are made of mud and stone, and while very beautiful, set as they are into the amazing, steeply terraced landscape, they do not hold up well to earthquakes! Add to this the fact that the monsoon is right around the corner, and the need for adequate shelter is acute. And there’s no such thing as homeowner’s insurance in these villages…
Most families store their food, which they grow themselves (rice, lentils, corn, millet), in the upper floors of their houses, to keep it as safe as possible from pests. When the houses collapse, their year’s supply of food is buried in the rubble. We have also been told that the spring which supplies Kalche, the upper village, with water has been destroyed. There are no roads to either village; both villages can only be accessed on foot or by air. All relief supplies must be carried in on foot or flown in. No relief has gotten to either of these villages as of the writing of this post. Apparently, to make matters worse, there is looting of aid trucks in the lower villages (everyone is hungry), so it is even harder to get supplies anywhere near the upper villages.
Communication, too, is an issue. We heard nothing from the villages for over a week after the earthquake because no one could charge their cell phones, and there are no landlines. Only Tutung has electricity, but that is down, too.
So our goals for the fundraiser are to equip Amrit with some basics: one solar cell phone charger for each village, an emergency shelter (tent?) for Surja’s parents, and another for Amrit’s mom, some means of water purification, and funds to be wired as needed to purchase food staples there to be portered in. We hope to have some left to help both households make a start at rebuilding their homes, or at least better temporary shelters, and also to contribute to the effort to re-establish a water supply for the upper village. The situation is fluid and Amrit will certainly know more once he gets there. We have already purchased Amrit’s plane ticket with our own money, so all donations will be used 100 percent for aid, and we have established a separate account at Union Bank for the relief donations.
In the meantime, we hope you will join us next Friday for some chai, kheer (traditional rice pudding) and desserts, as well as a conversation about Nepal. If you already donated to a big NGO, THANK YOU, and please join us for dessert and friendship anyhow.
If you can’t come next Friday but would like to contribute, you can mail a check to: Surja Tamang (the nice guy who works at the Amissville landfill!), 64 Forest Grove Rd., Viewtown, VA 20106
And if you have any questions, feel free to call us at 540-937-3526.
All the best,