I was in Bhaktapur, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is one of the popular tourist attractions in Nepal. I had brought guests of mine from China to show them around. I have been traveling a lot recently, so I hear the roar of jet engines frequently. That’s exactly what it sounded like in the first few seconds of the earthquake: a roar, and all of the birds flew into the air at once. I thought, “Oh, there must be something flying next to us.” And then everything started to shake, and I knew it wasn’t that.
I didn’t have time to react or panic, because I was focused on making sure that my guests, who were completely dependent on me, were safe. They were awestruck, like “What in the world just happened?”—simply awestruck by the sheer power of nature. All around us, small parts of buildings were falling off, walls were collapsing, roofs were crumbling. There was dust everywhere afterward, like smog. We couldn’t see much.
We waited for a couple of hours, through the aftershocks, and then I drove back to the city and dropped my guests at the hotel. Then I immediately went home, grabbed my bike, a backpack with radios and other essential stuff, and went to Sundhara where a tower had fallen; I have first responder training, so I wanted to help in search and rescue. By the time I got there, they had already brought in big machines, dozers and everything. I looked around and thought that because there were already so many people there—hundreds—I couldn’t make much of a difference. I went to the other side of the tower, and it was the same there: a lot of people had already come. I wanted to find a place where I could be truly useful.
Then I thought of the hospital. I met friends there, and together we formed a help desk where we could assist families, move patients from one section to another, and organize more volunteers. The whole country was in a state of emergency, so not all of the hospital staff, the administrative staff as well as the doctors and nurses, were there. So with the resources we had, we started mobilizing volunteers, helping to fill up the gaps.
By the fourth day after the quake, my friends and I had realized that we needed to send help outside Kathmandu. Before the quake, I had worked with a project called Nyano Sansar, which provides reusable clothes and blankets to thousands of families in southeast Nepal, where people freeze to death every winter. So I had a fair bit of experience working in aid management. I invited all my friends, told them that we were going to send trucks to districts with emergency supplies, and that’s how the relief efforts started. We collected whatever we could, wherever we could find it. Most of the shops and businesses were closed. But we had contacts, networks, and we used all of our resources to find medicine and food, put them in trucks, and send those trucks in all different directions. Every day, it was five, ten, fifteen, twenty dispatches, from morning till night. It was crazy—most of the time we didn’t even know what we were doing.
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