How I organized Nepal earthquake relief in Pokhara

I’m sitting in a beautiful cafe, overlooking the lake in Pokhara. The birds are singing, and it’s very hot even in the shade. In the distance, there are dozens of white birds sitting in a tree and more keep flying there to perch. I can see the World Peace Pagoda nestled on top of the small hill, at least small in comparison to the massive snow-topped mountains across from it.

Today I go to Kathmandu and the unknown. It’s funny to have been here for five days and to not have explored much of this cute, little city. My days have been filled with organizing, buying goods, and dealing with challenges that arise every half hour, especially with broken English over the phone to people in two different cities. Still in a few short days, we managed to acquire all that we needed for the next village.

Sunset over Fewa Lake Pokhara
Sunset over Fewa Lake Pokhara

Let me tell you more about how these past five days have gone, and how I organized Nepal earthquake relief in Pokhara. The organizational part of earthquake relief is an incredible learning experience. It really teaches you to live in the moment. Everything can change without notice, even another 7.3 magnitude earthquake.

When we arrived back in Pokhara after our Lamjung relief mission, tired and dirty from our journey, we knew that we were not done. The destruction of the village was grave and there are many more villages that we can help. Our operation was not that expensive, but it was time consuming. Time I have. Time I can give.

Master Sato, Rinske (the Dutch girl), Tiago, and myself discussed a plan to help the Goljung village in Rasuwa district, roughly 130 kilometers from Kathmandu, high up in the mountains. There are 350 families in dire need of help. The road is blocked and people need tents and supplies. We can help.

monks at World Peace Pagoda Pokhara
monks at World Peace Pagoda Pokhara

However, we are more than tripling our initial effort. And the surplus of funds was dwindling. We would need $12,000 to complete this mission. With the help of our friends and family we were able to raise $5,000 more, which was not enough. We would do our best to help as many as we can.

In our last meeting from the World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara, the four of us decided to divide and conquer. Rinske would go back to Lumbini to buy basic goods, such as umbrellas, first aid, soap, toothpaste, etc. from the border; Tiago and I would stay in Pokhara to find tents, blankets, P-Foam (sleeping mats), and metal roofing sheets; and Master Sato would go to Kathmandu to meet with his student and let us know what else the village needs. We said our solemn goodbyes, knowing that the next time we meet would be in Kathmandu, where most of the destruction is.

Lumbini Shanti Stupa Rescue Team
Lumbini Shanti Stupa Rescue Team

Our first day in Pokhara, we met with one of Master Sato’s disciples Mr. Uttam. We went around the city asking for tent prices that were wildly expensive. On top of the 46% tax, people were charging large commissions. I can’t blame them too much, after all business is business even during a national emergency.

That day we were nearly heartbroken. We couldn’t find any reasonable prices in Pokhara for any of the items. After communicating with our counterparts, we decided that we might be more helpful in Lumbini packing the items that Rinske bought. Still we thought we would stay one day to check out Yes Helping Hands, the organization that we met on the way to Lamjung.

Dinesh, founder and CEO of Yes Helping Hands Pokhara
Dinesh, founder and CEO of Yes Helping Hands Pokhara

We spoke with Dinesh, the owner of Yes Helping Hands. His name might as well be “Yes Man” or “Possible.” Tiago and I quickly learned that everything is possible with Dinesh. He is a strong business man with the resolve to help rebuild Nepal.

I learned that Yes Helping Hands is originally a non-profit organization that provides blind, deaf, and disabled persons with the tools and skills for them to be independent within Nepali society. They weave beautiful pashmina and cashmere scarves for purchase and wholesale and make a living in a nurturing environment.

After the earthquake on April 25, all 105 employees donated one month’s salary to the grassroots earthquake relief effort and 100% of the profits from the scarves and sweaters also became relief funds. Since the quake, Dinesh and his organization have provided relief to 9600 packages to remote villages in the affected area.

Front of Yes Helping Hands
The front of Yes Helping Hands

Dinesh, his employees, and a team of foreign volunteers are nothing short of incredible. He helped us purchase tents and blankets at the lowest prices, without commissions and even without VAT taxes. Our financial costs dropped significantly and the $5,000 we raised was almost enough for our efforts. He even fronted money for us, when ATM limits prevented us from taking out cash.

During our time waiting for our materials, we helped pack the food and items that Yes Helping Hands had purchased for their own relief efforts. We became part of the community and helped each other organize and plan the earthquake relief. I was even asked to put my marketing skills to work and helped the volunteers with ideas on how to raise money.

Volunteers at Yes Helping Hands
Volunteers at Yes Helping Hands

Dinesh also needed help with marketing banners and website content and design, wanting to now convert his website into one that was more accessible for English speakers but one that also included all the work about the earthquake relief efforts. It was what little I could do to help repay him for truly saving our mission. The website will soon be a .org with new content in several phases. Stay tuned!

When we were finally ready to leave, Dinesh saw that our truck wasn’t filled as it only contained 350 metal sheets and blankets (Sato was able to buy the P-Foam in Kathmandu for a better price). He began asking volunteers to throw food and medicine packs into the truck until it was filled. He smiled at us and said,”It goes to the village too.” You can see my hilariously shocked expression in the photo.

Packing the truck when Dinesh started giving us food packs to takeShocked that Dinesh was generously giving food to our village
Shocked that Dinesh was generously giving food to our village

I’m so blessed to meet so many true diamonds in the rough Master Sato, Dinesh, Jupiter (owner of Lumbini Village Lodge and Silver Oaks Inn), Rinske, many of the volunteers at Yes Helping Hands, and you at home clicking send on PayPal. Outside of my nexus here in Nepal, I’m consistently in awe of my friends and family who have supported me not only on this next phase of life, but also in this relief effort. Your words of support and donations make you the true saints in my mission. I cannot thank you enough.

Please continue to share my posts and help me raise more funds for more people. Together, we can help rebuild Nepal. Monsoon season is one month away, and those without shelter will be helpless against the torrential downpours. If you have a little extra or friends interested in donating, please send through PayPal at 8185852339 or through Venmo. All gifts are tax deductible. I’m even accepting corporate sponsorship, if your company is interested in having your logo added to the any of the goods or packages we buy.

Keep up the good work!

Help Us Rebuild Nepal #act4earthquake
Help Us Rebuild Nepal #act4earthquake

2 thoughts on “How I organized Nepal earthquake relief in Pokhara

  1. Helena Reply

    I’ve shared this in a few parenting communities on Facebook – so many people are interested in sending nappies, slings, clothing and so on. Hopefully some will send money to you so ou can use it directly!

    1. Told by Alyse Reply

      That would be great! Thanks Helena, hope you and your family are doing well. Are the kids old enough for dive lessons yet?

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