Help for Nepal

Photo by John Creveling

Photo by John Creveling

With modern technology and communication systems, we are bombarded 24/7 with images of tragedies and disasters. Some people I know refuse to watch the news because “real time” footage of natural disasters, wars, and people struggling to survive is too much to “take in.” They believe it is harmful to their immune system. With instant communication, the world has become a “global village”—we are “connected” in a way that was not possible years ago.

Realistically, we can’t respond emotionally to every tragedy—otherwise, we would be in a constant state of loss and mourning. Which crises, then, receive our help and attention and which ones do not? When I think about the “causes” and “recovery efforts” that get my attention or financial contributions, quite selfishly, they are things that impact me directly or are “close to home.” I suspect that may be true for many of us. For example, because my husband, John, has Parkinson’s, I put more focus on supporting research to find a cure for PD than other diseases. Because I live in Philadelphia, I can understand why people here may focus more on the Amtrak derailment disaster that killed eight people than on recent earthquakes in Nepal that have killed more than 8,000—the train tragedy happened in our “backyard.”

The geography of one’s “backyard,” however, expands when one has been fortunate enough to travel. Two years ago, my husband and I took a trip to India and Nepal. Before we left for our trip, we asked Andrea Clearfield, a composer who has held a Salon in her Philadelphia home for 28 years featuring contemporary, classical, jazz, electronic, multimedia and world music, if we could bring her anything from Nepal. Andrea has travelled in remote areas of Nepal collecting folk songs that influenced music she composed. We were delighted when she responded, “You can bring me a damaru.” Andrea went on to explain that a damaru was a small, two-headed drum shaped like an hourglass, no more than six inches high and about five inches round. Two small beads are attached to a string that winds around the middle of the instrument. When held in the hand and rolled from side to side, the beads strike the heads of the drum. Andrea said she was in the process of recording a composition and wanted to use a damaru that had broken.

When we arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, finding a damaru for Andrea became our “mission”—it was a wonderful opportunity to interact with the Nepalese people. We went in and out of stores looking for a damaru until we found one we liked. John took a photo of the woman who sold it to us, and we bought a second one for a son who is a musician. I still remember the idyllic day we spent in Kathmandu, going in and out of little stores, talking with the people and the colorful temple flags flying in the air.

Then the recent earthquake struck Nepal. Immediately we thought about the people we had met. Was the woman who sold us the damaru still alive? When we attended Andrea Clearfield’s Salon in April, she asked her guests to send prayers and good wishes to the people in Nepal. I had every intention of writing a blog featuring Nepal but a broken wrist made that difficult. I was struck by a cartoon I saw in The New Yorker when I was waiting for physical therapy. A man lay on a couch and said to his therapist, “I am going to have to stop watching the world news—it makes my own problems seem insignificant!”

I thought about Nepal often after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit on April 25th. Then another 7.3 earthquake, or aftershock, rocked the country on May 12th, causing even more damage and making relief efforts even more difficult. It reminded me the quote by the author Nicholas Sparks: “Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it can.”

It is difficult to know the best way to support relief efforts in countries halfway around the world. One wonders if a contribution will even reach the country or be used to help people who need it most with their greatest needs. Fortunately, we received an email reminder for Andrea Clearfield’s May Salon and were thrilled to see it included ways people could help Nepal:

Some of you may know that I participated in Tibetan music fieldwork in a remote Nepalese Himalayan region. Many of these villages have been impacted by the quakes. If you are looking for a trustworthy way to help, consider DROKPA nonprofit run by Dartmouth professor, Sienna Craig (with whom I trekked) and her husband Ken Bauer. Checks can be mailed to: Drokpa, c/o Sienna Craig & Ken Bauer, 95 Stowell Rd Norwich, VT 05055. They are in close contact with people from the area and can make sure that the tax deductible donations go directly to families in need. I am also supporting a campaign by Nawang Tsering for his village, Ghiling, which was hit hardest in the region. Click here to learn more. I have been offering lectures on my Tibetan music fieldwork to raise money for Nepal.

I have always preferred to rely on personal networks and people with direct experience when I make donation decisions and am grateful for the information Andrea provided. For those who may want to know of other organizations involved in relief efforts in Nepal, Time’s 6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief may help.

Recently, CNN stated that only a fraction of the aid Nepal needs has been committed by the international community. According to the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, only 14 percent or 59 million of the 423 million requested since the first quake has been received. Many in Nepal are living in makeshift camps or in the streets. To make matters even more urgent, people in Nepal need safe housing before the monsoon season begins in June. I was unaware, until recently, of the second part of the quotation, “Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it can.” It is, “And just when you think it can’t get any better, it can.” Let’s hope through the generosity of individuals and the world community that the second half of this quote holds true for Nepal!

— Christina Robertson

Read more stories by Christina Robertson

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