Magical Nepal. These two words undoubtedly resonate with anyone who has been fortunate enough to visit the Himalayan treasure south of Tibet. Whether it’s the inspiring resilience of the Nepali people, the majestic sight of the tallest mountains in the world, the irresistible delight of momos (Nepalese dumplings), the fiercely protective strength of the Gurkhas, or the vibrant culture rich in folklore, everyone finds something meaningful in this precious place. Despite a long history of political instability, many are inspired by the nation’s accomplishments on human rights issues, as one of the few countries in Asia that has abolished the death penalty and the first country on the vast continent to rule in favor of same-sex marriage. For me, the magic lies in the indescribable experience of being in one of the last places on earth that has preserved a living transmission of the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition since the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, who was born in Nepal over 2,500 years ago as Prince Siddharta Gautama and gave teachings on the nature of mind now known as Buddhism. While the strength of the people who live in this powerful place is not to be underestimated, the hardships they now face from the devastating destruction of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25th, 2015 cannot even be put into words.
You surely already felt heartache when you saw a death count of 5,000 in the major headlines this week. While statements from the Nepalese government indicate the expected number of deaths to exceed 10,000, the calculations of an experienced and respected analyst of seismic hazards, Max Wyss, with the International Center for Earth Simulation in Geneva, Switzerland, estimates the final total to be closer to 57,000. While this number in itself is nearly impossible for me to comprehend, it still doesn’t include the millions of people whose lives have been turned upside down as they now face the traumatic conditions of life-threatening injuries, missing family members, and no access to basic needs such as clean water, food, and medical assistance.
Consider: Before April 25th, only 40% of Nepal’s population had access to electricity. (And if you’ve been to Nepal, you know that “access to electricity” means something like a 50/50 chance that when you hit the switch a light will come on.) In the rural areas where the destruction from the earthquake is most severe, the amount of people with electrical access was 5%. Due to the mountainous terrain of the country that has made road construction beyond challenging, more than one-third of the people lived at least a two hours walk from the nearest road (many of which become inoperable during monsoon season), and a significant number of communities could not even be reached by jeep. These conditions contributed to a disease prevalence higher than that of other Southeast Asian countries. Now, with roads blocked by landslides and the kind of damage that can be seen in the photos below, there’s no telling how much more limited their access to basic means of living has become.
More than ever, Nepal needs the support of every friend in every corner of the world. So what can we do to help? If you’re the hands-on type and are already packing your bag to head over and lend a hand, reconsider. There is not enough food and water for the people who are already there, and anyone who is not well-equipped and experienced in navigating such conditions quickly becomes a burden. There are a number of international aid organizations who have the skills and the means to provide exactly what is needed, and by donating to them, your good intentions will be best served. A few reputable and well-trained organizations with established networks in Southeast Asia to which we can recommend sending your donation include: Mercy Corps, American Red Cross, and UNICEF. Another is Convoy of Hope, who Organic Valley is grateful to be working with to get 10,000 pounds of organic milk powder into the hands of those who need it most. Wherever you decide to send your support, the most important thing is to direct your funds to an organization whose mission you resonate with. You’ll find an additional list of vetted charities to choose from here.
And finally, do not underestimate the power of your prayers, wishes, positive intentions, or however it is that you go about keeping this part of our human family in your thoughts. Every ounce of good energy is needed.