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Continuing the Compassion: Jake Norton Revisits Reconstruction in Nepal
Posted on June 18, 2015

Thoughts and Prayers for Nepal. P: Norton

Finding perspective in tragedy is always a tough assignment. Jake Norton, however, has a rare talent to make sense of difficult mountain situations. His words and wisdom have provided solace in the wake of tragedies and inspiration for the cause on many challenging occasions—but none more so than after a devastating earthquake hit Nepal on April 25. While Norton was stateside when the tragedy hit, he jumped into action, organizing a massive grassroots relief campaign through the close connections and very personal relationships he fostered during two decades traveling and climbing in the Himalayas. His dispatches on the devastation generated a groundswell of action and also facilitated Eddie Bauer’s gear donation to the relief effort. Nearly two months later, the world and the media have moved on, but as Norton reminds us, with his powerful words, the work of rebuilding lives and reconstructing a country is only beginning. And the people of Nepal need our compassion now more than ever. —LYA Editor

The fog is lifting in Nepal. P: Norton

Words and Images by Jake Norton

As I sat down to write this post the other day, one of my favorite musicians for writingKrishna Das—came across my speakers, his melodic voice chanting the sacred mantra om tare tuttare ture svaha from his song “Tara’s Mantra.” It was a highly coincidental and apropos song, as the mantra is believed to call on the powers of Green Tara, the bodhisattva of compassion. In Mahayana Buddhist thought, a bodhisattva is a being who has attained enlightenment, is free from the suffering inherent in earthly existence, and yet remains in the physical world until all sentient beings attain the same level of freedom from suffering. In short, a bodhisattva is the embodiment of compassion.

Seven weeks since the devastating earthquake in Nepal, compassion is what is needed for Nepal. The international press has long since left, moving on to other stories and the next disaster. The flurry of online interest and funding has likewise diminished. Yet the situation in Nepal is far from settled, far from over.

“The international press has long since left, moving on to other stories and the next disaster. The flurry of online interest and funding has likewise diminished. Yet the situation in Nepal is far from settled, far from over.”

 

In a strange dual twist of fate, Nepal both dodged a bullet with the April 25 earthquake, and took one. It dodged a bullet on that day simply through timing and the realities of being one of the poorest countries on Earth. Most Nepalis are subsistence farmers, and were outside their homes tilling their fields when the midday quake hit. Many of those who were not farming were likewise outside. In a country that has intermittent power even in the capital, few are inclined to sit indoors watching TV, and thus were outside. Additionally, the quake hit on a Saturday, so the 6,000 schools leveled in the earthquake were empty, saving untold numbers of young lives. And there are more twists of fate: as Kunda Dixit notes in his great article “Post-mortem of a Disaster,” the quake was just below the level of intensity for ferro-cement failure, meaning many newer buildings remained standing, and the groundwater level in Kathmandu has been so drawn down over the years that there was no liquefaction in the valley’s soft soils.

The result was a relatively low death toll (for an earthquake of this magnitude) of roughly 9,000, a number that belies the extent of the tragedy and the very real possibility for more yet to come.

Rebuilding season in Nepal. P: Norton

As it stands now, about 8 million Nepalis were affected by the earthquake—about one-quarter of Nepal’s population—and an estimated 2.8 million need humanitarian assistance. More than 500,000 homes were destroyed by the quake, and an additional 300,000 were damaged and need to be assessed. UN reports indicate that 91,500 people are still living in temporary displacement sites across 12 districts as of June 2, and while the monsoon hasn’t yet arrived, its months of rain are imminent.

Those are the simple facts, and they are bad enough. But digging a bit deeper tells a more chilling story. Much of the quake’s devastation hit the agricultural areas of Nepal’s heartland, districts like Rasuwa, Dhading, Nuwakot, and Sindhupalchowk (where 99% of structures were destroyed and 89% of people displaced). Here, people often build two-story homes, with livestock kept downstairs and people upstairs. When these collapsed, livestock were killed. So those families have lost not only their homes, but their key to survival and rebuilding: without livestock, there is no milk, no ox to plow the fields, no manure to fertilize, and a bad harvest still to come.

“Those are the simple facts, and they are bad enough. But digging a bit deeper tells a more chilling story.”

 

As the monsoon looms and attention drifts away, Nepal needs our help—and our compassion—more than ever. In the days after the quake, the UN issued a flash appeal—a requested sum of money estimated to be needed to cover those affected for five months—for $430 million. In similar disasters, like Haiti’s awful quake in 2010, the UN flash appeal was met in full in a matter of weeks. Seven weeks out, the flash appeal for Nepal is only 30% met. (Interestingly, Haiti was quick to react, donating $1 million to Nepal relief.)

In the days following the quake, the airwaves and Internet were filled with compassion, with people telling stories of beauty and tragedy, with wallets opening as quickly as hearts. Great things were accomplished by dedicated souls across the world, using traditional channels and grassroots guerrilla tactics to get basic aid to those who needed it most.

“As the Dalai Lama simply and eloquently put it: A mind committed to compassion is like an overflowing reservoir—a constant source of energy, determination, and kindness.”

 

But Nepal needs more. Nepal needs us all to echo the words of Krishna Das and the mantra of Green Tara, and for us to make a commitment to compassion.

Compassion. As the Dalai Lama simply and eloquently put it: A mind committed to compassion is like an overflowing reservoir—a constant source of energy, determination, and kindness.

A Reason for Compassion. P: Norton

If you want to donate funds to vetted organizations that will be working on the rebuilding of Nepal long into the future, please join Jake Norton’s “Help Carry the Load” fundraising campaign at www.crowdrise.com/helpcarrytheload. And to learn more about the grassroots efforts he is involved in, follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mountainworld, or the “Person to Person for Nepal” page at www.facebook.com/person2person4nepal.

Author: - Thursday, June 18th, 2015
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