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Nepal Quake Spurs Action

Swarthmoreans organize to help Nepali earthquake victims

Swarthmore senior Sabrina Singh’s mother and sister were just beginning lunch when the ground trembled April 25 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

A week later, the 7.8 magnitude earthquake had claimed more than 7,000 lives and left thousands homeless. Thousands more remained unaccounted for.

            “At least it happened on a Saturday, when people were at home rather than in offices or schools, says Singh, an honors political science major. “On weekends, everyone likes to be outside, and this reduced the casualties,”

            Hearing news of the quake, Jennifer Marks-Gold, adviser for international students, called a meeting to discuss steps to help the victims. Singh and three other Nepalese students on campus—Rajnish Radav ’18, Abha Lal ’18, and Veda Khadka ’16, whose families were unhurt—organized a campuswide fundraiser and clothing drive for the victims. A candlelight vigil on the steps of Parrish Hall April 27 demonstrated support for Nepal.

More students pitched in, some chairing a table sponsored by the International Students Club at Swarthmore borough’s Charity Fun Fair May 3, raising money to add to on-campus and online donations. As of May 5, they had collected more than $3,000. Professor of Political Science Mark Schneider brought Nepali author and journalist Prashant Jha to campus May 5 to speak about the earthquake in the larger economic and political context of Nepal.

            Rather than seek help from large aid organizations like OXFAM and the Red Cross, who visit disaster areas, work for a while, then leave, Singh says that the students preferred to direct donations to Nepali native Pukar Malla ’02 for distribution through Nepal Ko Yuwa, a nongovernmental organization in Kathmandu that he founded.

            “It’s imperative to have local people on the ground to channel funds to,” says Singh of Malla. “It’s their lives. They’re staying there for good. They have local knowledge. They know the geography.

            “People must realize that this event has a long-lasting impact,” she adds. Singh compares it to the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. “Ten million dollars in aid went to Haiti, and much of it was squandered. Haiti is still not doing well. So when people continue to read about what’s still going on in Nepal in the summer, they need to continue to act on it.”