Visit: The number one thing you can do to help Nepal is to travel to see it for yourself. So much of what is needed in Nepal revolves around influxes of tourism. Almost every way of life in Nepal is affected by the ups and downs of tourism. This is not in the budget for all people, so…
Donate: Even small donations help us work towards getting out their story with the film and to send money to the individuals and families we know it will benefit most. If you have checked your coffee fund, your rainy day fund, and even scoured the couch cushions and there is nothing to be found that you can spare…
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If we all do what we can when we can do it, we are all part of the movement to make our world a better place.
Contributions of ANY amount are gratefully accepted.
The news has been horrific. Many of us have seen the images and videos of the destruction in Nepal as the country shook repeatedly over the last several weeks. The wonders of an interconnected world bring the heartbreaking losses into all of our lives.
Yet, I am struck by how different this disaster feels to me than the others that have come in recent times. The difference is, of course, that the people hit this time are my friends. I do not say this to take away from the many people who endured the horrors of the tsunamis in Japan or Thailand, the earthquake in Haiti, or any other natural disaster. I say this, because I hope that in sharing the stories of my friends in Nepal, you too will be touched by their humanity and help them.
This is the first of many posts I will be making where I will tell the stories of my Nepali friends pertaining to the earthquakes. While it has been difficult to wake up every morning to countless messages from Nepal recounting the tragedy (13 hour time difference), it is nothing compared to the challenges that they face every day. In a country where life was difficult before, the earthquakes have taken everything from many.
One of my friends who has asked for help is Suman. I smile every time I think about the first time I met him. I had just strolled through the temple complex in Changu Narayan, a 4-th century village in the hills outside Kathmandu, and was meeting my travel companions at the little open-air restaurant just outside the temple gate. As I was walking up the stairs leading to the elevated pavilion, I was greeted by the warm smile and boundless energy that Suman is never without.
Suman explained that he would be our waiter and chef. It turns out, this 22-year old runs the entire restaurant by himself in addition to managing the small wheat, rice, and potato fields his family relies on for food. He supports his mother, father, and three younger siblings. He learned to cook while working in restaurants in India before returning home to work at the restaurant at a small guest house in Changu. Did I mention he can cook? Suman made, without a doubt, my favorite chicken dishes in Nepal.
As we got to know Suman more, he invited us into the community to experience their culture like we were family. Whether he was bringing us to the evening Puja (prayer session that is mostly a musical jam session by a local family of musicians) or taking us on picnics, Suman made us feel at home.
A great honor came one day when Suman invited all of us to accompany him on a 3-hour hike into the hills to attend the village’s annual festival to honor the hindu gods Ganesh and Vishnu. We were treated to a traditional ceremonial goat sacrifice that culminated in a delicious roasted goat feast. As we were walking back to Changu in the golden sunset over Kathmandu valley, we learned that we were the first visitors to attend this ceremony.
The messages I received from Suman in the days following the earthquakes were heartbreaking. Like many people in Changu Narayan, Suman and his family lost everything. His family’s home was destroyed. The restaurant he worked at is gone. He has no income, and he is the sole provider for his family. They are now sleeping under a tarp at the village’s Bus Park. Suman tells me that it would cost $3000-$5000 to build a new basic mud home for his family. Considering that his salary was about $35 per month before the earthquake eliminated his job, he has no way to pay for it.
In the midst of all of this tragedy, there is a positive note. Suman just got married May 8th. Amid all of the loss and destruction, a glimmer of happiness still shines through.
Suman is one of the many people in Nepal that will receive help from the donations you make to our GoFundMe fundraiser. Please contribute today.
Have any of you been feeling like “Okay! We get it! You hiked some [censored] mountains! Can we move on now?!!” Because I have been feeling that way for a long while. I am so ready for the next adventure, you have no idea.
I am not accustomed to talking about what I am doing in public. Even after a year of doing this, I still do not like it. I like my privacy. A lot. I prefer that the only part of my personal life that surfaces in public is the photography I decide to share. There have been many times over the course of this last year that I have reminded myself of the people of Nepal for whom I am doing this. Most often, it is the children that run through my mind.
I have lived with the people we met in Nepal in my heart and in my head for over a year now. With approximately 200 hours of footage and all of the photography captured, they are living breathing people in front of me every day. They make me smile and laugh and they pull me through when I get worn out from the long hours and no pay. Yes, okay, maybe we let our hearts get ahead of our finances when we agreed to do this film project. (There have been so many meals of cheap tacos or food made in the toaster this year.) Who knew it cost so much to do this?! Certainly not I. But, then, I did not even know I could not hike in jeans. (I know, I know, thank goodness I did not die.)
Nepal is one of the poorest nations in the world. The goal of the Karma Documentary was to move beyond empathy for their struggles and to support them in their desire to empower themselves, so they can work towards providing for their own communities with their own profits. I have never regretted starting on this project, not even when I was hanging upside down in a rabbit trap [chuckle], and where I grew up you finish what you start. We were just beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, when…
On April 25th, 2015, the earthquakes began, the worst natural disaster to hit Nepal in over 80 years. Thousands of people died, and hundreds of thousands of people are now homeless. It was centered around where we stayed for my time after the trek. Most of the homes and businesses of the people we came to know in that village (as well as throughout Kathmandu Valley and beyond), were destroyed. The aftershocks continued to hit them for days to come.
We had no idea what to do. My first thought was, “How can I get there?” (I know, but when I know people that are hurting, it is always my first thought.) It quickly sank in that my going there would do nothing to help and only take away from their resources. Besides, knowing the people we know there, they would turn around and be trying to take care of me, rather than the other way around. Instead, we just sat here feeling helpless, watched the death toll climb, and held our breaths while we waited for the people we know to check in as safe. 4,000 dead. Now over 5,000 dead. Believed to be over 6,000 dead. They finally settled on over 8,000 dead and more than 19,000 injured.
It never occurred to me during those first days that we would continue making the film. I just kept seeing the people I knew in my mind and picturing them now living on the streets outside of their collapsed homes, and feeling lost as to how to help them. It was not until it was made very clear to us from many different directions that, not only did we need to finish the film, but that now it was even more important to their long term recovery that we finish it. It was not until this was pounded into my head repeatedly, that I could even bring myself to watch actual footage from the earthquake.
Just when I had finally gotten my head wrapped around the importance of continuing with the film, because they still want and need their stories to be told, May 12th, 2015 arrived. Another earthquake, almost as big as the first, hit Nepal. This time its center was where we had been trekking. There is no one that I met during my time in Nepal that has not been affected by the earthquakes.
We have started a campaign to raise 125K to accomplish both the completion of the film and immediate relief for people in the communities we know, because we know how to get the money directly into the hands of those communities. We do not have to wonder if we gave it to the right organization. (Seriously, how do companies working in disaster relief profit so greatly? Nevermind. That is a rant for another day. Focusing on what is important right now.)