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Tigard groups respond to disaster in Nepal

Two Tigard organizations are raising money for relief efforts after devestating Nepal earthquake

PHOTO: MERCYCORPS - Latest figures show 5,000 people have been killed in Nepal after a major earthquake hit on Saturday. Two local organizations, Medical Teams International and the Nepali Association of Oregon, are raising money to help with humanitarian aid.“Everything is gone,” Ganga Sharma says, looking at the photos of her native Nepal that she has framed on her kitchen wall.

“This one is gone,” she says, motioning to a temple in one photograph. “And that one is gone, too. Gone, gone, gone, gone. Everything.”

Sharma, who lives in Tigard, is president of the Nepali Association of Oregon. The organization normally works to promote Nepalese businesses and culture across the state, but has switched gears in recent days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the south Asian country on Saturday.

More than 5,000 people have died, according to most recent figures, and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said this week that the death toll will likely continue to climb and might reach as high as 10,000.

The devastation has left tens of thousands of people displaced, living in tents at a time when seasonal rains are getting worse. Clean water is running low and the Nepalese government has struggled to deliver food, water and other aid to a country of more than 28 million people.

Washington County has a large Nepalese population, Sharma said, drawn to the area for work at high tech and engineering jobs.

Sharma said she felt they had to do something to help. Sharma and others attended a candlelight vigil at MercyCorp’s Portland headquarters on Monday.

As of The Times’ press deadline on Wednesday, April 29, the Nepali Association of Oregon had raised more than $10,000.

“The whole Nepalese community is fundraising,” Sharma said.

Sharma hopes to eventually raise $20,000, which the organization plans to donate to MercyCorps.

“The house that our sister-in-law grew up in is just gone,” she said. “There are so many stories that break your heart. There are people whose houses are totally flattened.”

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Ganga Sharma, president of the Nepali Association of Oregon, shows pictures from Nepal. All of the buildings in these photos were destroyed by last weeks earthquake, she said.

Challenging terrain

The Nepali Association of Oregon is one of two Tigard-area organizations offering aid to the country.

Medical Teams International has dispatched a team to Katmandu; that team left Portland on Wednesday morning.

Dominic Bowen, global emergency and security advisor with Medical Teams International, flew to Nepal earlier this week and told reporters on Wednesday morning that despite a large amount of international assistance, many people in remote areas of the country have yet to be treated for their injuries.

“There is a huge amount of the country that has not received assistance and we are working hard to get to those communities,” Bowen said. “You just have to look at a map of this part of the world to see how hugely challenging terrain is.”

The earthquake has destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. Roads have been destroyed and buildings toppled. Several major World Heritage sites, including centuries-old temples and palaces, lie in ruin.

Those losses are tragic, Sharma said, but not as much as the lives lost.

“We have to put aside the shrines — we can rebuild them,” she said. “Right now, we have to look after the people, put them back in their homes and tell them that they are going to be OK.”

How you can help

Two local organizations are raising money for disaster relief in Nepal:

Medical Teams International: Donate to Medical Teams International's Nepal relief effort

Nepali Association of Oregon: Donate to Nepali Association of Oreon's Nepal relief effort

Medical Teams International sends doctors, nurses and other medical professionals all over the world to assist in emergencies. They have teams fighting Ebola in east Africa, and working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Bowen was originally scheduled to fly to Liberia in Africa on the day of the earthquake, but instead immediately boarded a plane for Nepal.

It takes a great deal of planning before doctors arrive, Bowen said.

“There is nothing worse than two groups of doctors arriving at one village, and the next ridge line over, there is no one getting any assistance,”

Bowen's team will arrive in Katmandu on Friday, where they will head to Dhading, a district northwest of Katmandu with a population of 330,000.

“We’re talking about villages where it will take seven or eight hours of driving to get there, and then maybe two days of hiking with donkeys where vehicles can’t go,” Bowen said. “We have to be careful with our time because there are people in these villages who potentially still need dramatic medical care. We can’t waste time.”

Begin to heal

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Ganga Sharma, president of the Nepali Association of Oregon, speaks at a vigil at MercyCorps on Monday.Sandwiched between India to the south and China to the north, Nepal is one of the most seismically unstable countries in the world. Scientists have long expected a major earthquake in the region and the country has already felt the effects of several major events in the past century. An earthquake in 1988 killed more than 1,800 people. An earthquake in 1934 killed more than 10,000.

Across the world, Sharma said, the Nepalese community is grieving and looking for a way to contribute.

“If I could afford it, I would take a sabbatical from work and immediately go to Nepal to help,” Sharma said.

Members of the Nepali Association of Oregon will be at the Tigard’s Hindu temple, Brahma Premananda, for a peace prayer on Sunday, May 3.

The prayer begins at 5 p.m. at the temple, 11515 S.W. Hall Blvd. in Tigard.

“We will get together and the priest will say a prayer,” Sharma said. “Hopefully, we will begin to heal.”

By Geoff Pursinger
email: gpursinger@commnewspapers.com
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