Geisel Student Sends Appeal From Kathmandu

Shreya Shrestha flew into Kathmandu May 11 on an earthquake relief mission. Hours after the Geisel School of Medicine student landed, a second powerful earthquake struck the region east of the capital.

"We are all safe. Our work today got derailed after the earthquake and we had to spend the majority of the evening re-routing our plans," she wrote to colleagues in Hanover.

Tens of thousands of people are living in improvised shelters in Kathmandu because their homes were destroyed or are unsafe after the 7.8 magnitude struck on April 25. Geisel student Shreya Shrestha, who arrived in Kathmandu just hours before the latest disaster, photographed the devastation. (Photo by Shreya Shrestha)

Shrestha, who is from Nepal, brought emergency medical supplies and cash for direct relief on behalf of Aasha for Nepal, a health NGO she co-founded with Daniel Albert, a physician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) and a section chief with The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

Shrestha is part of the Dartmouth for Nepal working group, supported by the provost's office and made up of students and professors from the College and Geisel, and by other members of the Dartmouth community. The group is organizing aid for relief efforts and promoting the rebuilding process following the April 25 earthquake that killed thousands and devastated much of the country.

Shrestha joins two other Nepalese from Dartmouth who are also on the frontlines of rebuilding Nepal. Kripa Dongol ’16, who was on a geography foreign study program in Prague, Czech Republic, rushed home to Kathmandu after the quake hit; Bhupesh Khadka, a physician at DHMC, flew into Kathmandu days after the disaster through the America Nepal Medical Foundation. Dartmouth for Nepal is also working with a number of Dartmouth alumni who are on the frontlines.

Because of their close ties to the Dartmouth community, Aasha for Nepal and the America Nepal Medical Foundation are two of the NGOs Dartmouth for Nepal has designated as a conduit for donations through its website.

Shrestha describes terrified people rushing into the streets on May 12 as a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck, shattering the small degree of normalcy that had returned to Kathmandu in the two weeks since the initial disaster. This new quake set back efforts to open supply routes to hard-hit villages and districts far from the capital, she says.

Many of the buildings in Kathmandu that survived the first quake collapsed when a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck on May 12. Permanent shelter is an urgent need in the devastated country as the monsoon season approaches, says Geisel student Shreya Shrestha. (Photo by Shreya Shrestha)

How to Support the Dartmouth for Nepal Effort

Led by a committee of students from Nepal and many other countries with support from faculty and community members, Dartmouth for Nepal aims to mobilize resources for immediate relief efforts and for the long-term development in Nepal.

Dartmouth for Nepal has designated Aasha for Nepal and America Nepal Medical Foundation as two lead organizations to which people are urged to make direct donations.

Student organizers are also working on a new platform for online donations by credit card and paypal. Questions about donating can be directed to Pawan Dhakal '16, at Pawan.Dhakal.16@dartmouth.edu.

In addition, Dartmouth students can donate through the Dartmouth for Nepal website using DA$H meal plan cards. The group has already collected over $4,500 from more than 500 students through DA$H.

"Yesterday's earthquake has now made traveling to remote villages essentially dangerous due to landslides and blocked roadways," Shrestha reported to the Dartmouth for Nepal working group. "I'm still working on supplies to Sindhupalchowk and Dhading [near the center of the latest earthquake], but will likely now be sending them with the brave souls who know the areas well enough to venture into them."

Part of Shrestha's work for the Dartmouth effort is to assess how the College can best direct resources to help.

She was able to visit the hard-hit villages of Khokana and Bungamati in the Kathmandu valley on Wednesday, and found that, based on input from residents, the greatest need right now is for shelter. The Dartmouth effort could make a significant difference by funding low-cost shelters, she says.

"Interestingly, there are engineer-designed, semi-permanent ‘homes’ built from galvanized tin, which can serve as a temporary but sturdy home for an entire family. Engineering students have come and instructed the villagers on how to build these structures. They cost about $200 and take less than an hour to build," she writes to the committee.

"If we could approve funds to invest in these structures, we could house several more families before monsoon hits. It might be an ambitious target, but given how quickly these structures are built by Khokana residents themselves, we could have these shelters ready as early as Friday."