At six am, I woke up and saw the scary and sad posts on Facebook. I found out that on April 25, 2015, at 11:56 p.m. (NST, Nepali time) a massive earthquake occurred in Nepal with a 7.8 magnitude which affected cities and town including; Kathmandu (capital) valley, Sindhupalchok, Kavre, Gorkha, as well as other districts. Immediately I messaged on Facebook and called my relatives and friends who are in Nepal, but I did not get any response from them. In the meantime, I was thinking about how to help victims in Nepal who lost their homes, jobs, and their loved ones. So I called Jeetan Khadka about what is happening in Nepal and how we can help them from Vermont. He told me that he already created an event on Facebook to invite friends and community members from different schools, colleges, and local organizations. Immediately I found the event and I invited my friends who live in Vermont. Even though my friends have Facebook, some of them do not check it all the time so I called and texted those friends to inform about the earthquake in Nepal and about the meeting. This meeting was the next day, we met at North End Studio to talk and to discuss about how we can help people in Nepal.

At the meeting, there were around fifty community members including representative from the Vermont & New Hampshire Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Vermont Lutheran Church, the City of Burlington, Burlington High School, Winooski School District, the University of Vermont, WCAX-TV, the Community College of Vermont (CCV) and the Association for Africans Living in Vermont (AALV). Before we started the discussion, we had a moment of silence for those who lost their life. I prayed that their soul may rest in peace and to give strength to their family members to overcome this tragedy. After the moment of silence, we asked people their ideas of how we can help victims in Nepal and we came up with different ideas. We also talked about long term help and short term help. We wanted to make sure that after a certain period of time victims still get support. Building schools, building hospitals and emotional support for the trauma they have experienced.

We decided to fundraise in many ways including having bake sales at schools, doing a talent and comedy show and placing donation jars at supportive businesses, schools and the Williston rest areas. After that, we decided to name our group Vermont For Nepal, we chose to this name because not only Nepali people are helping Nepal but also people who are living in Vermont. Also, we created different committees and an organizational structure. The steering committee of around five or six would meet every week and update on all activities of Vermont for Nepal. Subcommittees were also created including, communication, fundraising, finance and distribution. Also under the fundraising subcommittee three groups were formed, K-12, colleges and businesses.

Our organization’s ongoing plan is to continue to do research to find out what the victims needs are and looking at some local organization who are working on a ground. The reason we want to send donation money to local organizations is so that we can directly connect with the victims and we can know where the money is going. Some smaller organizations we have found so far are I Maya Academy and Youth For Blood. Maya Academy is the first free Private Boarding school in Nepal in country side. Maya’s girl hostel was destroyed during the Earthquake and they are not getting place to keep children in safe place. Also, after the tragedy happened lots of people are suffering from trauma, diarrhoea, vomiting and other sickness. Their mission is to bring children from Gorkha district, where lots of children lost their family and having difficulties to stay in Gorkha. In order to keep children safe, they need to build buildings, buy foods, drinking water, and other supplies. The Youth For Blood is the local organization who are currently helping in different districts short term. They went to Nuwakot, Kavre, and Sindhupalchok and donated foods, tents, and other supplies. Their upcoming plan is to pick one area and work there long term helping by doing things such as building a school, a hospital, and houses.

Since our first meeting Vermont for Nepal has held some successful fundraising events. At Winooski High School we raised $1,150 through a bake sale, at CCV we also had a bake sale that raised $1,226, at Waking Windows we raised around $500 in a donation jar over the two day event, we raised money at World Fair Trade Day, we had a yoga benefit at North End Studios that raised about $300 and at last weeks steering committee meeting the director of the VT and NH Red Cross reported that online donations were around $55,000 so far to support this effort. Upcoming fundraising events include a Benefit Concert for Earthquake Victims in Nepal this Thursday at North End Studios, 294 N Winooski Ave, Burlington, VT, a Nepalese Dinner Fundraiser also at North End Studios in Burlington, VT this Sunday 5-8pm, a Pancake Breakfast at Milarepa Center, 1344 Route 5 S # US, Barnet, VT on Saturday, May 30th 9-11am. More events are being schedule all the time some are coordinated by our group and others are independent from us but we are still helping to spread the word because every bit counts. Visit the Vermont for Nepal website or Facebook page for the most up-to-date information.

by Kinzang Gurung
PJC High School Intern and Steering Committee Member of Vermont for Nepal