In the United States, some of us woke up Saturday morning to discover that a devastating earthquake had struck Nepal hours earlier. Others had found out in the wee hours of the night. We then frantically scrambled to find out if our family and friends were safe in Nepal. Some of us suffered not knowing for hours or even days. Others were faced with tragic news of death of loved ones or destruction of dear homes. Slowly, we all saw the horrific images of trapped bodies, leveled villages, flattened temples, and fallen monuments on the internet and television, and heard of recurring aftershocks and makeshift camps of terrified Nepalis out in the open.
In the past few days, we, Nepalis living abroad and friends of Nepal, have all done what we could with much sense of duty and a tinge of guilt for escaping the disaster and being absent from Nepal. Some of us have even made the trip to Nepal to be on the ground to help with rescue and relief. But many of us cannot (and should not) go there. So how can we help rebuild Nepal from afar now that it is near the end of the first phase of rescue and the second phase of relief has only just begun? Here are some ideas.
1. Consume and share information responsibly: Social media like Facebook or Twitter and some news coverage may contain sensational or incomplete information rather than accurate descriptions of events in Nepal. We should review all available information with a critical eye, separating facts and careful analysis from conjectures and rushed conclusions, and then avoid trading rumors and hypes that can hurt rather than help the relief work in Nepal. Here is some advice from a Haiti veteran.
2. Donate to reliable Nepali organizations as well: Media and expert recommendations of organizations to donate to rarely, if ever, include Nepali organizations. When immediate relief work wraps up, veteran relief organizations will leave Nepal and the burden of continued relief and reconstruction will fall on Nepali organizations. Therefore we also need to seek out and donate to reliable, capable and well-established Nepali organizations that are transparent and have proven track records. Here is an interesting perspective on where to donate.
3. Coordinate with teams in Nepal to send only solicited goods: Experts have advised donors to not send goods to Nepal. However, there are shortages of relief materials and problems with transportation in Nepal, and some teams in Nepal have solicited specific goods. We should coordinate with teams in Nepal and only send solicited goods that can be cleared through customs and stored and distributed effectively.
4. Collaborate with fellow organizations and individuals: World over, fundraising and planning activities sprang up organically immediately after the earthquake. It was a natural reaction of well-wishers in the face of a natural calamity. However, in the continued relief and reconstruction phases, fellow organizations and individuals, both in and outside Nepal, will need to collaborate and cooperate with each other to reduce waste and increase effectiveness. Here is a portal for collaborating with teams in Nepal.
5. Prepare for long-term involvement in reconstruction: The remaining tasks of continued relief and reconstruction are more a marathon than a sprint. It will take years to rebuild Nepal. We will need to plan and prepare for the long haul. To do so, we need to pace ourselves and not burn out. We need to make sure that both fundraising and world interest continues for a long time to come. Here is a take on how not to rebuild Nepal.
While being very grateful to the outpouring of worldwide support for Nepal, the Nepalis living abroad and friends of Nepal will need to work together, and both harder and smarter if we want to see Nepal fully recover from this terrible tragedy.