After the 7.8 Earthquake of 25th April, 2015 and a few significant others which followed, all of us had to go into relief work. Although this was a new on the job learning for many of us, we used our common sense and a sense of urgency recognizing how most the affected people had suffered multiple major losses. The two organizations I founded in Nepal Tewa – the Nepal women’s fund, and Nagarik Aawaz for peace, decided to work jointly with a synergistic approach. The earlier 2 weeks were spent in grounding systems, values, and our approach. These were premised on a hypothesis that when disaster/s of this magnitude strike, people are taken off their balance and they suffer great losses. This will temporarily paralyze, numb, or traumatize them. But essentially they are the same as any of us. Their values and principles remain the same if not further honed. Their inherent altruistic nature or goodness cannot change. We decided to serve with the same respect that was due to them earlier and not reduce them to be VICTIMS.
Gingerly, from the 3rd week of our relief outreach work, I suggested that we make a suggestion that if anyone is willing and interested they can contribute a small amount of the cash we gave them for temporary roofing materials, to a community fund we could match many times and take to other communities or bring back to them. There was an overwhelming response. Everyone gave back a little from Rs. 20 to Mostly Rs. 100, and in one case Rs. 5020 (returning all we gave her with an addition of 20 rupees). Not just this people told us that this is “the right thing to do”, “we have been taught to practice this all our lives”, or “it makes us feel happy that we can make a small contribution”. People smiled, beamed, and appreciated. It blew me away! I thought right – asking for a gift even in these conditions is possible. People love to support others and feel that they can do it.
Since then we have so far gathered over Rs. 200,000 and now Tewa/NA is integrating this request into their ongoing relief work. Building this into relief work has some additional value e.g. it makes the survivors feel good and happy – happy also that they are supporting those who are supporting them.
I am affirmed that it is so important to build on people’s inherent altruism in any condition.
A salute to our survivor Nepalis!
Rita is the founder of Nagarik Aawaz, an initiative for conflict transformation and peace building in Nepal, where she previously founded and led Tewa – Nepal Women’s Fund.