Dartmouth Mobilizes Resources for Nepal Aid

The Dartmouth community is marshaling resources to aid victims of Saturday’s massive earthquake in Nepal, where the rising death toll has exceeded 3,800, and much of Kathmandu and many rural villages lay in rubble.

“In the wake of the heart-wrenching news of devastation coming out of Nepal, members of the Dartmouth community are putting hearts and minds together to find ways to help,” says President Phil Hanlon ’77.

Nepalese students, the South Asian Student Association, Milan, and others are meeting tonight at 9 p.m. in Pan Asian Community Resource Room of Robinson Hall to talk about how best to organize disaster relief.

Tomorrow, Sienna Craig, associate professor of anthropology and chair of the department, is coordinating a community-wide meeting at 6 p.m., in Silsby Hall, room 317, which will include people from the Geisel School of Medicine, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock health care system, Thayer School of Engineering, and Thayer’s Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineersgroup, as well as Nepalese students and other concerned members of the community.

“We’re trying to gather our resources to determine how and where they would be most useful,” says Craig. “That’s part of the information gathering that I’m trying to do along with other colleagues around the country who are asking the same questions, as well as with people in Nepal as much as I can be in contact with them.”

Provost Carolyn Dever hailed Craig’s effort. “I’m grateful to Sienna for her leadership in organizing the College’s humanitarian efforts, and encourage students, faculty, and staff to get involved.”

How You Can Help
Financial contribution to earthquake relief efforts in Nepal are best made to the following organizations, say Associate Professor Sienna Craig and Lecturer Kenneth Bauer:

  • American Nepal Medical Foundation
    On the ground in Nepal since 1997, the foundation is run by Nepali doctors in conjunction with U.S. physicians.
  • Educate the Children
    A respected group with experience in rural areas that works to improve the lives of women and children.
  • Mercy Corps
    Works throughout Nepal with decades of experience in emergency relief in places experiencing conflict, disaster, and political upheaval.
  • Other vetted charities
    Links to several non-governmental organizations that have set up funds to support relief efforts in Nepal.

Craig, who has worked in and written about Nepal for some 20 years, and Aditya Mahara, a Thayer graduate student from Nepal, say they have received word that friends and loved ones in Nepal are all right.

“No casualties in immediate family,” Mahara writes in an email from campus. “Since Saturday afternoon, it’s been a constant cycle of tremors and terrors. Rain is not helping with rescue/relief. They have no electricity or power and my family’s water supply is running low.”

Craig heard from Bed Giri, a former professor of English at Dartmouth who returned to his native Nepal to teach in Kathmandu.

“We have had two harrowing days and nights with the big quake and many aftershocks. The tremors are less frequent now and very low in intensity. It looks like the seismic side is calming down,” Giri wrote in an email.

“Of course, there is huge devastation all around. Lots of homes and historic temples and buildings have been destroyed. There’s years of work ahead. Thankfully my family and I have been spared. In fact, everyone I know personally is okay.”

Giri shared his thoughts about how best to help earthquake victims.

“I don’t know what friends and well-wishers from there could do at this point other than making monetary donations as they see appropriate. There’s confusion in many areas. The situation has not sunk in fully yet.”

In the hours after the earthquake struck on Saturday, Nepalese students at the College were contacted by deans from their respective schools. “Support has been offered to each of the undergraduate and graduate students, and their advisers will continue to check in with them,” says Elizabeth Agosto, associate dean of the college

“As far as I know, none of our Dartmouth students have lost immediate relatives,” says Craig. “But many of their homes and their natal villages have been destroyed.”

When Mahara was eventually able to contact her relatives in Nepal by phone, it was she who was sharing information.

“We here in the U.S. had so much more information than they did (because TV was out and electricity was gone) so I ended up updating them on some of the things that were going on around them.”

Organizing Nepal Relief

Craig says that time is of the essence for relief efforts.

“The monsoon season will soon be upon South Asia and with that will come rains that will increase the chance of water-borne illness, that will make landslides worse, that will make efforts at rebuilding all the more challenging,” Craig says.

Tomorrow’s meeting will give participants a chance to think creatively about the most effective ways to help, Craig says.

Kenneth Bauer, program manager of human development initiatives at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, stresses the importance of working with established humanitarian organizations with a presence in Nepal.

In particular, Bauer and others are concerned that relief efforts reach the remote villages cut off from Kathmandu.

“Traveling in Nepal for 26 years now, there has always been this dichotomy between Kathmandu, the capital, and the rest of Nepal,” Bauer says. “One of the things we’re very concerned about and trying to think strategically about is how it’s helpful to get to villages and rural communities, and what does their future look like in terms of rebuilding.”

Bauer, who is married to Craig and met her more than 20 years ago in Kathmandu, pointed to a list of organizations the couple has compiled in cooperation with colleagues in the Association of Nepal and Himalayan Studies. (See sidebar)

“Not only are these vetted organizations, but they are organizations that are specifically working in districts that are most affected by the earthquake,” Bauer says. “They have an existing on the ground presence that would be critical to support.”

James Geiling, a Geisel professor of medicine and chief of medicine at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt., led a medical team to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake there in 2010. He calls Bauer and Craig’s strategy, “spot on.”

“While often with good intent, too often goods or personnel sent to a scene like this without prior coordination with people on the ground end up cluttering up the response effort,” Geiling says. “In Haiti, mounds of goods shipped there ended up on a tarmac, unused. So my recommendation would be to echo their thoughts. Mobilize Dartmouth’s goodwill and generosity to garner funds” to send to the Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross (known as the ICRC), and organizations Craig and Bauer have suggested.

—Writers Hannah Silverstein and Joseph Blumberg contributed to this story.