When the earthquake (with a "moment magnitude" of 7.8 ) shook in Nepal on the 25th of April, things started to move in Majorca as well. Saskia Griffiths, a yoga teacher who lives here, felt that she needed to do something to help the Nepalese people, little did she know that her action was about to set off a chain reaction.
Saskia Griffiths: I've done modest fundraisers for organisations that have touched me before, I did one for "Tu Importas Mallorca" at Christmas time for example. So when the first earthquake happened in Nepal I knew I wanted to do something. I decided to organise an outdoor public yoga session with my colleague David Lurey. We had just nine people attend. We did gentle yoga, partner yoga, meditation, kirtan (chanting and singing) and prayers for Nepal. By the end of the session passersby and the class participants had put 400€ in a hat for Nepal.
"That was on the Saturday and I thought that was that. But by Monday I had been given a total of 750€! I knew that I would have to find the way to get the money to Nepal. Originally I had intended to send it through a charitable foundation. But when I investigated more thoroughly I realised that I wasn't happy with how the money was going to be channelled to Nepal and I was concerned that it would not get to the people who needed it. So I spoke to a friend of mine, Reena, who is originally from Nepal to ask her for advice. Reena told me that I should speak to her nephew Vivek who lived close to where the earthquake had hit, so I did. As it turned out before I had made contact with him he'd already started to help, he'd been out clearing boulders to get help and relief to remote villages around Kathmandu.
Vicki: Have you ever been to Nepal?
Saskia: Nope, never!
Vicki: What's Larpark like? Do you know?
Saskia: The village of Larpark is 2100m above sea level and is very typically Nepalese (Gurung). It was at the epicentre of the first earthquake and has been completely devastated: all 611 wooden-roofed households, gone. The villagers have moved upwards to safer grounds and dispersed into five new locations although most of the elderly have refused to move to other places. While Larpak is at an altitude of 2100m, the currently highest migration settlement is up to 2700 metres at Mamchi. It is remote, and treacherous to get to with a 1,5 trek and no roads, but it's vital that emergency supplies and support reach these vulnerable people. Some of the sons of the village, who now work as trekking guides, have returned to help their families: Suman Gurung, a professional mountain guide who was born in Larpak village, had been on a trek in the Tsum Valley and was also trapped in the mountains as the earthquake struck, but immediately teamed up with five other friends from Larpak who also work in the trekking sector to head out to their birthplace and lend a helping hand to their fellow villagers, and family members. Due to the sheer remoteness of the village and lack of vehicle access, official government relief or international community has still not reached this village. He along with his team were the first to provide relief materials to his suffering villagers with limited funds provided by friends and family, in Nepal and abroad.
Vicki: Have you found it easy to raise the money?
Saskia: People have been calling me all the time telling me they want to give money to Nepal. By the end of the first week I had another 1210€, then another 1885€! Now I have just had another big donation of money and it's in constant growth! It's amazing how much people want to help Nepal! I've been keeping track of every donation in my notebook, and sending photos to the people who have donated of the things that their money has bought.
Vicki: How have you been communicating with Nepal?
Saskia: Incredibly 3G and 4G is still working so it has been really easy to stay in contact with Vivek. He sends me photos and updates every day of where the money is being sent, he even sends me photos of the receipts. It's been amazing to be able to show a photo to someone who has donated money: "Look this is where your money has been spent". It's been an incredible experience for me as well. Vivek's wife is pregnant, very, very pregnant, she's due any minute. They live in Katmandu and originally he was supposed to be opening a restaurant as a new business. But all of this has taken a backseat now as all he wants to do is get the supplies to the people in need. The other day we were speaking about how to physically get it up the mountain to where they have moved to, I suggested a helicopter, and off I went to find a way to raise the money for a helicopter, then when we spoke again Vivek had conferred with the other people he's working with and they had decided rather to spend the money on a tractor, and had decided that a helicopter was too expensive. But I can't make those decisions you see? It has to be down to the people whose lives are being affected. They are getting themselves organised now which is good because the official aid agencies are still not moving in as they said they would. Vivek sent me a photo of a big consignment of Red Cross goods just sat at the airport embargoed! Nepal does not have a good reputation for honest politicians unfortunately.
Vicki: What kind of things do the people need?
Saskia: Vivek has been buying tents, medication, soap, sanitary pads, food packs, essential things to keep the people healthy and fed. When the second earthquake (7.3 on the scale) came on the 12th of May he went quiet for a couple of days, he said he needed to stay at home in his sturdy little house in Katmandu and be with his family. But now he's out again every day working to help the villagers. But soon a much bigger challenge is coming, there will be, as there is every year, a monsoon. This will bring with it infection. We need to get clothing, blankets, housing materials, chimneys, wood, sanitary arrangements, safe drinking water, medical care, food supplies. It seems like a terrible dream, but we also need to be thinking about schooling for the children as well, they have nothing up there now.
Vicki: It must be a terrible situation, they are so isolated.
Saskia: The earth has been shaking for three weeks. They are still experiencing three or four aftershocks every day, can you imagine how frightening that must be? Vivek is very worried that the money will dry up before he's finished helping these villagers, "What will happen when they forget?" I told him that I wouldn't forget. If you get inspired then you can really do amazing things. The thing I want everyone to get out of this is that you really can do something to make a difference, if you want to help then you really can. I asked myself, what is the one thing that I would personally want if the earth had been shaking where I was for the last three weeks, the answer is ´stability´. So I am going to keep going, sending whatever money I can, whether it is 5€ or 5000€, given to me by a cleaner or a millionaire, every single cent I am being given is going to help these people whose lives were changed in an instant.
Vicki: Why do you think people have responded to the call for funds so readily?
Saskia: I think the Nepalese people appeal to us Westerners. Nepal is a Buddhist country. They are not materialistic, they are very simple, pure, honest. They are a really compassionate people. They have minimal needs. They don't see the point in having lots of stuff, they see the point in having friends, praying, of family, of caring for each other. They are not like us. I just don't want them to feel alone.
More than 8,000 people have been killed, more than 19,000 injured and countless more made homeless in Nepal. They are living in the open air in tents. The monsoons and winter season are coming. If you feel the call to help then please get in touch with Saskia on email@example.com