A Colorado Foundation Serving Remote Nepal Settlements Assesses Damage

People carry their belongings amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a 'massive' aid operation.

PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP/Getty Images

People carry their belongings amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a 'massive' aid operation.

The 77 settlements and 29,000 residents in Nepal served by Colorado’s dZi Foundation are among the earthquake ravaged country’s most remote villages and people, directly south of Mount Everest and each a 3-4 day walk from the nearest road.

It wasn’t until Monday morning, Colorado time, that dZi co-founder Jim Nowak in Ridgway received word that the last of 18 in-country staff members had been accounted for safe and uninjured.

“I was quite relieved to hear that,” said Nowak, in a phone interview Monday with Rocky Mountain PBS I-News.

The residence of dZi director Ben Ayers in Kathmandu was destroyed in Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake, and he and six other dZi staff members in the capital city are currently sheltered in tents in his front yard.

“Every piece of grass has got a tent” on it, Ayers said, in a cell phone interview with Outside magazine. “Everyone’s too freaked out to go inside.”

While dZi staff were still very much engaged in “triage and survival” at this point, Nowak said initial reports from the remote region served by the non-profit were trickling in.

“Reports from field staff indicate that every building, if not completely flattened, has suffered damage,” he said. “These are verbal reports. We have no pictures or video at this point to attach to that.”

Since its inception in Nepal in 1998, dZi (pronounced Z) Foundation has made impressive contributions, building 18 new schools, 20 clean drinking water systems, almost 3,000 sanitary toilets, 17 community buildings, 10 bridges and currently has two health post buildings under construction. Community involvement has been key to the non-profit’s development model. The staff other than Ayers are Nepalese.

A man holds the hand of a Nepalese child injured in an earthquake, at a hospital in Pokhara on April 27, 2015. Officials say more than 3,800 people are now known to have died in the quake disaster, including 3,793 in Nepal -- making it the quake-prone Himalayan nation's deadliest disaster in more than 80 years.

SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP/Getty Images

A man holds the hand of a Nepalese child injured in an earthquake, at a hospital in Pokhara on April 27, 2015. Officials say more than 3,800 people are now known to have died in the quake disaster, including 3,793 in Nepal -- making it the quake-prone Himalayan nation's deadliest disaster in more than 80 years.

“At this point we’re still trying to assess and prioritize,” Nowak said. “Water supply, toilets, sanitation and trying to figure out what’s going on with the schools. It doesn’t take much to damage a water system, to rupture pipes.”

The foundation is seeking charitable gifts to bolster its recovery operations and to help rebuild.

“This is a tragic situation, one in which we share,” Nowak said. “There’s more than enough work we will we have to tackle. We are very transparent and accountable. Going forward, we’ll report on our (recovery) successes and the challenges we face.”

A lifelong climber, Nowak said that he’d been to Nepal many times, trekking and on expeditions.

“I was very selfishly focusing on my climbing career. I came to the point that I realized I  was receiving a lot more than I was giving.”

He and his girlfriend at the time, and now former wife, started looking for “a small project we could support.” That turned out to be a girls’ home that was being developed by another U.S. non-profit. “Lo and behold, they gave it to us when they folded up on the East Coast. It was one of those things that just happened. It started from one little project.”

dZi is a Tibetan word that refers to an ancient Tibetan bead, Nowak said. “It is given from one person to another as a gift, but it also bestows protection on the wearer.”

In the wake of Saturday’s devastation, there is definitely a demand for dZi.
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To learn more about dZi Foundation or to contribute please go to https://dzi.org/ 

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