After the earthquake that shook his home country, Prem Lama listened through a fuzzy phone line as his family described the destruction to streets he ran through as a child.
“It’s quite a mess out there,” said Prem Lama, a Nepal native living in Institute. “Every time I try to contact anyone over there, there’s no good news. The only good news is that they’re safe.”
The earthquake on April 25 was the most powerful disaster to strike Nepal in nearly a century. More than 7,000 people were killed as entire villages collapsed. Economists estimate more than $5 billion in rebuilding costs at a time when the country’s capital and economic epicenter, Kathmandu, is crippled. Nepal, one of Asia’s poorest countries, will struggle to rebuild the nation themselves.
“Although you see all the news around the city, the villages are the ones who got struck most because their structures are weak,” said Lama. “Right now the roads are all damaged so there’s no safe way to travel to those places.”
Most relief effort is concentrated on the cities due to accessibility and population, but the rural villages are struggling to receive aid. Lama is raising funds to send to his family’s village of Ichok.
“There are numbers of organizations like Red Cross and UNICEF that are also helping but they’re going through the governmental channel so it is taking longer,” said Lama. “My effort is to concentrate on these few villages that I know and that are equally affected.”
Between government donations and individual fundraisers, more than $50 million has already been raised internationally. Countries are also sending food, medical supplies and rescue teams to contribute to the relief effort.
Yet this effort is bringing about another problem.
“The Nepal government is overwhelmed by all of these things,” said Lama. “When the international efforts are coming over here, they do not know how to actually mobilize.”
On May 3, the Kathmandu airport was closed due to the damage caused by large aircrafts delivering aid. Concerns of pilferage and the distribution of funds and supplies also slowed the relief effort.
Lama frequently attempts to contact his family in his home country both to ensure they are safe and learn what aid they really need.
“I need the logistics, I need the data of what has to be done… Kids cannot go back to school because the unsafe conditions of the school, the food supply is going away. They have to stop everything they are doing to dig their houses out,” said Lama.
Yet the psychological impact is most important to Lama.
“When I talked to my mom she is traumatized, even the tiniest of shakes scares her. When the entire land you’re standing on is shaking… I cannot imagine what their minds went through,” he said.
“I grew up on those terraces. I grew up on those streets. My love for this place is special. I’m in the position to be able to do this. If I was there I would be physically helping. But this is the one way I can do this since I’m not physically there.”
There will be a fundraiser at the Door County Brewing Co. on Friday, May 8, featuring live music from Big Mouth Trio from 6 – 8 pm. Two dollars from each beer sold will go towards Lama’s fund and visitors can donate any time during the day. Lama is also using his blog site (premlama.blogspot.com) to raise funds for his village.