A Year in Review 2015
2015 turned out to be a challenging year for Nepal. The two big earthquakes of April 25th and May 12th killed nearly 9,000 people, damaged thousands of buildings and other infrastructure, and destroyed the livelihoods of many people while displacing hundreds of families and communities. As the country started cleaning up the debris and was slowly rising from the rubbles, we were met with another crisis when strikes and protest programs were launched by various groups and ethnicities who felt their demands were not addressed in the newly promulgated constitution. The ensuing violence and blockades were a major setback in the efforts towards recovery from the earthquake, and sent the country’s sputtering economy into a tailspin, and crippled the lives of the millions of Nepalis. Despite the many setbacks, we at OLE Nepal tried our best to stick to our plans and carry out our scheduled activities.
We had to make a number of adjustments, and take extra measures to complete the planned activities on top of the new ones that we undertook in the aftermath of the earthquake. Many of our team were directly affected by the earthquake, with some having to spend a few weeks in tented shelters. A number of our staff joined other groups to bring food and relief materials to the affected communities. In the weeks following the earthquake, we grew concerned about the wellbeing of children in distress, many of them displaced and completely traumatized by the scenes of devastation around them. We decided to help bring some sense of normalcy to the children by allowing them to engage in learning activities, and soon our staff and volunteers spread out to different temporary camps and safe learning spaces created for children. They brought with them laptops loaded with many digital learning games and educational activities to engage children while they were in the shelters. In all these places, children fully enjoyed these activities, and were totally engrossed while playing the learning games.
In the following months, we visited schools in affected areas in Gorkha, Kavre, Sindhupalchowk, and Lalitpur, and collected first hand information about the needs in these places. Seeing the school buildings reduced to rubbles, we realized how fortunate we were that the earthquake struck on a Saturday when the students were on a holiday, sparing the lives of thousands of children. We were also impressed by the resilience of the local communities, most of whom had built temporary learning centers so that their children could continue their education.
We launched a campaign in May to raise funds to help construct school buildings in Gorkha, and to provide students with better learning opportunities using laptops and digital resources. We were impressed by the outpouring of support we received from so many people.
AirAsia Foundation readily lent their support, and launched the “To Nepal with Love” campaign and collected donations from passengers on AirAsia flights and airport hubs, in addition to online collections.
Students and faculty members from Knox College, Illinois, organized “Light up for Nepal” program and other events on campus, and decided to send the raised funds to OLE Nepal’s school rebuilding program. Two students from the college also traveled to Nepal to volunteer in the efforts, and visited the school locations in Gorkha in August.
Anil J Shahi participated in the New York City triathlon in June to raise funds for the school reconstruction project. That was the first triathlon of his life, and despite many difficulties, he did not give up, and completed the race. He was driven by the thought of the many families who were suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake, and that kept him going during the arduous swim, cycle and run events.
Impressed by our dedicated team and our unique program to build back better, Dougie Foster, an anthropology student at Oxford University, approached us and organized the “Hit the ball for Nepal” event in the UK to raise funds for the school rebuilding project.