On the morning of April 25, I woke up to numerous messages on whatsapp and facebook from my friends in India asking me if my family was safe. After listening to a voicemail from a Nepali friend based in Boston, I found out about the earthquake that had hit my country. It didn’t take long after I turned on my computer to see how big the devastation was. My heart sank to my stomach and I was in tears as I mindlessly added credit to my Skype account and repeatedly dialed my parent’s mobile number.
After multiple tries, I was able to get in touch with my family. While I cried throughout the entire call, I was reassured that they were all safe. Fortunately, my family survived this terrible tragedy and was able to stay safe in tents in open spaces near their neighborhood during the more than 100 aftershocks. Unfortunately, however, the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal has swallowed up whole neighborhoods, villages and along with it thousands of people. The death toll has reached around 9,000.
Being this far away from Nepal during that disaster, I felt very helpless. But serving at TechChange had exposed me to the many ways we can use technology to respond to disasters, and for the first time, I was going to experience that first-hand. Technology allowed me to stay connected with my family and other Nepali communities helping respond to the disaster:
Free Calls to Nepal
Shortly after the earthquake, many phone companies and messaging apps started providing free calls to Nepal. Viber, Skype, and Google Voice allowed free calls to mobile and landlines in Nepal along with many other phone companies like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and others. This may seem like a small gesture but for Nepalesei living abroad, it was a huge relief to be able to constantly contact family members and people requesting and responding to the crisis during this tragic time.
Numerous mapping communities deployed their teams online to map the crisis in Nepal so that the pleas for help can be detected and resources delivered.
I joined two Atlas Corps Fellows, Medha Sharma, and Luther Jeke to team up with Standby Task Force to help map the affected communities in Nepal by using MicroMappers. Medha and I reached out to our Nepali networks in and outside of Nepal to help advise the SBTF team by relaying information about ongoing requests for help or offers of assistance. We also helped translate Nepali tweets, facebook updates, and news articles so that they can be mapped. We recruited more than 200 Nepali expats and residents to help us with this effort.
Many organizations and individuals started fundraisers online to allow the global community to help in Nepal’s recovery.
Two of the alumni from my high school started a fundraiser on Indiegogo that directed the funds to local NGOs that may not have connections outside of Nepal to raise a lot of money.
Facebook also launched a campaign to match donations of up to $2 million to the efforts in Nepal. The campaign raised $17 million. Phone companies have made it easy to donate to the earthquake relief in Nepal through your mobile phones:
Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, also played an important role in the response to the earthquake in Nepal. Because of a shortage of manned helicopters, the effects of the earthquakes in the most rural parts of Nepal were hard to see, and this is where drones stepped in, allowing manned helicopters to continue with rescue missions.
The April earthquake was the worst earthquake to hit Nepal in 80 years, and the many pictures online show the devastating effect it had on my country. The damages were worst in the areas that the international media never covered. The consequences of this tragedy will affect my country for a long time. The media has already turned its attention away to other headlines, but we need everyone’s help to rebuild my country.
The tourism industry was especially hit very hard. Many visitors have since canceled their plans to visit Nepal. But you can help! If you are planning a vacation, put Nepal on your list. The country is now safe for tourists, and you can hear from visitors who already made their trip to Nepal after the earthquake. If you already visited Nepal in the past, go again! Reconnect with people you met during your time there. Nepal needs you the most now, and this is one of the many ways to go and show your support.