Update from Nepal: Charlottesville native discusses relief work post-quake

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Gordon embraces a child amid the destruction caused by the April earthquake in Nepal. Submitted photo Gordon embraces a child amid the destruction caused by the April earthquake in Nepal. Submitted photo

It’s been about two-and-a-half months since a 7.9 earthquake rocked the small, South Asian country of Nepal April 25. Though news coverage has dissipated and camera crews have long since returned home, the era of rebuilding the devastated capital city of Kathmandu and surrounding areas has only just begun.

Charlottesville native Marli Gordon was working in Nepal when the quake occurred, and she immediately began collaborating with local friends and colleagues to distribute basic necessities such as tarps, medical kits, and food to Nepali villages that had sustained the most damage. She recently followed up with C-VILLE about conditions in Nepal and her current work to help reconstruct the impoverished country.

“For people who had very little to begin with, the situation was almost too much to handle and the hardest part was to see the usually light-hearted Nepali people paralyzed by fear and turning apathetic,” Gordon says in an e-mail.

Gordon’s initial relief work eventually morphed into a nongovernmental organization known as “Nepali for Nepali,” which she co-founded with Andrew Nowak-Rogozinski. The nonprofit is currently run by a group of Nepalese and two foreigners—Gordon and Nowak-Rogozinski. Gordon is adamant that the organization only provide the raw materials necessary to start the rebuilding process and promote self-sufficiency.

“We are completely opposed to the idea of entering a remote village and rebuilding it with our own hands,” Gordon says. “This sends the completely wrong message to the people. We are not here to make them dependent on outside help but rather have them utilize their own manpower and knowledge to rebuild themselves.”

The Nepali for Nepali team, who views itself as more of a “social movement” than NGO, first looks to unify the community, especially through the rebuilding of local schools. The team then assesses various regions to determine where aid is most needed, and finally distributes relief supplies to these locations. According to Gordon, village unification is the most important step in the process.

“We establish a local team who is willing to work together, forget their own personal needs for a moment and focus on the need of the whole,” Gordon says. “This is a very powerful step that leads to future cooperation and overall success of our mission.”

She stresses that in order to rebuild Nepal, it is imperative people remain informed of the situation almost 8,000 miles away. Such efforts are being made to avoid what happened following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti: stagnated relief efforts due in large part to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.

“Haiti was hit by a 7.0 scaled earthquake which destroyed 280,000 buildings and in the five years since the disaster, only 25 percent of those structures have been rebuilt,” says Gordon.

In Nepal, the earthquake destroyed over 590,000 homes and killed more than 8,800 people. Gordon foresees the rebuilding effort stretching out over five years as she tries to create a permanent organization that is completely run by locals. “I think I’m going to be here for a very long time…our work is really just beginning,” Gordon says.

The team has multiple relief works planned for the future, including earthquake-proof homes, but “none of this will be possible without significant funds,” she added.

Donations can be made directly to Nepali for Nepali on CrowdRise.com. The organization has raised $740 out of a $150,000 goal.