Society

Off to the rescue

PRIYANKA RAJAGOPALAN speaks to people who are reaching out to help quake-hit Nepal

The U.N. estimates the number of people affected by last Saturday’s earthquake at eight million. Nepal is still picking up the pieces, trying to recover from one of its deadliest natural disasters. The magnitude of the earthquake, which was a devastating 7.9 on the Richter Scale, was felt at home — in Delhi, parts of Northeast India and Kolkata. India played the role of ‘Big Brother’ and was prompt in sending humanitarian aid to remote areas, initiating rescue operations by its armed forces, and urging citizens to raise funds. “The people of Nepal should know that they have the support of the rest of the world to get through this,” says Aditi Kumar, a student.

India and Nepal have always been culturally and historically close. The aid from India has only helped cement our relationship further. The city, too, is not far behind. Students across the city are observing silence in memory of the lives lost, schools and colleges are lighting candles to pray for the victims and their grieving families, and celebrities are showing support across social media, urging people to play do-gooders.

ALERT, a Chennai-based NGO that was started for the purpose of creating awareness about first-aid and emergency management, has started a fundraiser to help Nepal in the wake of the devastating earthquake. “Members of an adventure club in the city, who are regular trekkers in Kathmandu, requested us to raise some relief material and funds. The response has been overwhelming; we have almost three whole rooms filled with blankets, medicines, tents, sanitary material and clothes which people have donated,” says Kala Balasundaram, the founder-trustee and president. Technology has played a vital role in spreading the word, she says. “Facebook, WhatsApp and other forms of social media have been the most effective in reaching out to people. Most people are willing to donate without a second thought.”

So how do the donations reach Nepal and the people in need? “We first segregate and pack the material that will be sent to Nepal through airlines, after the required Customs clearance.” ALERT also conducts first-aid workshops for people, most of them free of charge. “In the case of emergencies or disasters like the Nepal earthquake, a lot of people are not trained in what to do, and how to give basic first-aid to victims. So it’s essential to train people so that they are not mere bystanders,” says Kala, who hopes that the workshops will reasonably prepare people for such disasters.

The Red Elephant Foundation, an initiative built on the foundation of story-telling, which gives a voice to the voiceless communities in the city, contributed by collecting 2,000 sanitary napkins, pain relief balm, four cartons of paracetamol tablets and an assortment of soaps and shampoos. “We actually used a private network to raise contributions; just a quick WhatsApp message to friends and family, and they contributed, as did all the members of the Red Elephant Foundation. We then sent it to Nepal through ALERT,” says Kirthi Jayakumar, the founder.

Though it’s no small effort, some individuals are reaching out to Nepal on their own. Janav, a student of Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering, is helping through Youth Thinkers Society, an NGO in Nepal. “A friend of mine heads the organisation, and has set up an online portal where people can donate funds via credit cards. These funds will be used to provide the basic requirements.”

For people who are nonplussed about how to help — questions about the veracity of the organisation, how to go about relief work, donating second-hand stuff or just volunteering — it’s better to ask around and read verified reports that inform you about aid relief. Organisations such as Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children are organisations that are well-known. If you do want to volunteer, join an international relief agency and learn as much as you can about Nepal — it helps.



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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 7:44:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/off-to-the-rescue/article7161852.ece

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