By: Tenzing Pela, Guest Writer
It was past midnight here in Glendale on April 25, 2015 and I was getting ready to go to bed when a friend on Facebook notified me that an earthquake had hit Nepal. I instantly knew this was the ‘big one’. For quite some time, experts had been warning us of this imminent earthquake and the devastation it would bring. But given how unpredictable earthquakes are, the nation had never taken this warning seriously enough to prepare for a disaster of this scale.
After much panic and struggle, I was able to connect with my family who was safe but the images that did not take long to surface online revealed that my beautiful country was in shambles. The iconic Dharahara tower that once stood as a tall white pillar of hope for the entire nation had fallen. Many ancient temples that made the Nepalese culture so unique were reduced to rubble. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake has killed over 5000 people and left thousands injured.
As I watched the destruction unravel before me in disbelief, I felt like I had lost a part of my own identity. A sense of helplessness engulfed as I realized I was in such comfort while my brothers and sisters back home were suffering. They could not even trust the ground beneath their feet with the countless aftershocks and the incessant rain only compounded the challenges they were facing. Perhaps what worried me the most was the inept government that would not be able to do much at all to help its own people.
I knew I had to do something and that was when Nikhil Purwaha, a Thunderbird alumnus reached out to me, encouraging me to raise funds from the Thunderbird community. I realized that I was indeed in a unique position and could leverage this valuable network. In addition, as a co-founder of Kalyani, an NGO in Nepal, I already had a team on the ground that I could trust and would be committed to help. This realization gave me the impetus to start the crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe; Nepal Earthquake.
The support has been overwhelming! So many T-Birds rallied behind me and in less than three days, we managed to raise over $5000! I am so grateful to everyone who donated and supported me. Kalyani has already started distributing essential relief supplies to 600 people and my team is currently assessing the situation to determine where can we create the greatest impact in the long-term. The campaign got off to such a great start that it began garnering attention from other people too. With that, I’m now reaching out to a broader audience and have raised the fundraising goal to $20,000.
The loss of human lives and culture from earthquake is immeasurable. It initially shook us all. But now that the worst is over, I’ve realized that the earthquake was only able to break houses but not the spirit of the Nepalese. We are an ancient country with deeply spiritual people who have always weathered through adverse conditions with smiles on our faces. Even when everything else is dysfunctional, the country bewilderingly manages to function! But most importantly, I have witnessed a new sense of integrity and determination from the Nepalese citizens, especially the youth who are now healing and rebuilding the country. It will be a long process to recovery but like every other time in history, we will be able to rise up to the occasion and emerge stronger.