Travelers and Grand Circle Associates Provide Assistance to Earthquake Victims
On April 25, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal's capital Kathmandu and the surrounding region—flattening entire villages, killing more than 8,800 people, injuring 23,000, and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. In between many aftershocks, the worst was not over … Less than three weeks later, on May 12, the area was struck again by a devastating temblor of a magnitude of 7.3. More than 200 people lost their lives and 3,500 were injured.
The response to fallout from the disaster by supporters of Grand Circle Foundation has been swift and heartwarming. Thanks to generous travelers like you, and our associates here in Boston and around the world, we received more than $150,000 within the first 24 hours of our fundraising effort. And today, relief funds exceed $337,000—in addition to a $50,000 match from the Foundation.
"I never cease to be amazed by the generosity of our travelers and associates," says Grand Circle Foundation Vice President Jan Byrnes, who traveled to Kathmandu on May 8 alongside her guide, OAT Trip Leader, Rameshwar "Ram" Shreshtha. "My life has truly been changed by what I saw and experienced, and will never be the same."
Byrnes met survivors, determined who was providing aid, and how the Foundation could best support immediate relief efforts. Thirteen days after the earthquake, she found many remote villages still hadn't received any aid from some of the largest international aid agencies. While big organizations have more funding and manpower, she says, they were limited by rules and regulations, which, in turn, slowed the response time.
On Day 2 of her journey, Byrnes visited hard-hit villages, like Khokana. She encountered an argument between a local person responsible for distributing donated items and a displaced man. The villager had received a blanket, and therefore was not eligible for a tarp. "People had to choose between a tarp and a blanket and were given only one. If you chose a blanket, poor choice ... we had torrential downpours …," she says.
"We met a woman whose home was destroyed, and whose 14-year-old daughter was killed," Byrnes recalls of her time in Bhaktapur, Durbar Square. "She was living on a cleared area of the rubble of her home, in a lean-to made of corrugated tin with her husband and three remaining children. We shared a hug and a cry, and she broke my heart."
Yet everywhere Byrnes went, she found the people still held onto their tradition of hospitality and kindness.
"These villages and towns looked like war zones, yet the people were resilient, helping each other and greeting us with smiles, willingly answering our questions."
Byrnes says she learned from her experience on the ground that the first responders are the people who lived nearby the disaster sites.
"Neighbors helping neighbors, friends and family reaching out to determine what is needed and organizing themselves to get the job done," she says.
And it is through this small community-based relief network that Byrnes found would be the key to providing the help that so many Nepalis need now and potentially for years to come.
"Local people are able to organize and get things done much more quickly," says Byrnes. "The devastation is so far-reaching; it will take years, and the commitment of many caring individuals, to help restore Nepal."
How Grand Circle Foundation is contributing to the Nepal relief effort:
While the Foundation had originally intended to direct the funds to the American Red Cross, we have since learned from the Foundation's Vice President, Jan Byrnes, and Trip Leaders in Nepal of several local organizations that have been very effective in delivering aid and services directly and quickly to the people of Nepal—and with little or no administrative costs. Based on their recommendations, we have decided to support the following organizations:
The Himalayan Trust Foundation
The Trust was started by our dear friend Sir Edmund Hillary. We have a long partnership with the Himalayan Trust and have supported them since 1993. After the earthquake we reached out to Lady Hillary, who is an Honorary Director of the Grand Circle Foundation, and she helped to connect Jan to their team based in Kathmandu.
The Nepal Orthopedic Hospital
Here, we are supporting the purchase of an autoclave machine, as well as other much needed surgical and nursing equipment.
Seven Summits Women Team
Following immediate needs like food, medicine, sanitation, this team is focusing on bringing schools and health posts back as soon as possible. We are supporting their work to provide toilet facilities.
Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness (ECCA)
Due to the destruction of homes in rural and urban areas, people are forced to seek refuge in open spaces. There is urgent need to provide basic needs like treated drinking water. We are funding efforts to provide water purification systems.
Through our local ground operator, we will provide temporary housing before the monsoon season begins.
All funds sent to Grand Circle Foundation for Nepal will go a long way to support relief and recovery efforts in Nepal. We hope you'll join us in doing everything we can to make a difference. You can donate by credit card with our secure online donation form, which also includes instructions if you prefer to donate by check. Because the Foundation has no administration fee, 100% of your donation—and our matching contribution—will go straight to the survivors in Nepal who so desperately need our assistance. Meanwhile, we will provide interested donors with updates as to how the funds are being distributed, so please let us know if you would like to receive these e-mail updates.
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for joining us in this most important effort.