Back In Kathmandu
After our first set of field trips we bade farewell to the group of development sector actors and journalists. We'd seen a glimpse of the scale of problems still so fresh despite the amount of time since the initial quakes. Niklas and I had the option to return to the BASE Project Office in Dang with the central office team and start work on earthquake recovery project proposals immediately, but we decided we needed to spend more time in the field. As we were able to put our responsibilities on hold we arranged meetings with volunteers and development workers back in Kathmandu to get a more holistic view of the successes and challenges on the ground and try and find the next sites to visit independently...
Very quickly the same story began to emerge, communities in crisis, stoically accepting and dealing with their predicament, trying to move forward day by day. Support was patchwork in it's delivery, blocked roads and routes causing delays and sheer geological challenges of reaching the most remote communities leaving some areas relying on helicopters or local uncoordinated efforts. While we had been taken care of travelling with senior government officials and development staff hundreds of small, informal or community groups were filling the gaps were the government could not.
A natural disaster brings a very unusual group of people together, strange bedfellows from all over the world joining with small groups of philanthropic Nepalis. For all the trite and harmful influences Facebook is accused of in society, I can honestly say I never could have imagined the relief and recovery potential that was being realised through this communication tool. Through groups local, national and international groups and individuals were beginning to become better informed, better organised and more resourceful in their approaches and delivery, together.
Of course we heard horror stories, and without laying blame there were and are individuals and groups operating with questionable motives, or at least implementation on both sides of the donor / beneficiary divide. I would prefer not to go into detail on this as fear-mongering in any shape is less than helpful, for those of you who are working in Nepal please email us and we'll advise in any way we can. However here I can only recommend that communication is key in a region where so many agendas vie for status and resources. Fairly soon we were able to identify the kinds of groups / people we were keen to avoid, where real change being affected, by whom and how to progress for our own soundness of action.
A very wise person who has worked across the development sector for a long time told me when I arrived in Nepal...
"A lie cannot be replicated,...triple check everything, then check it again."
...and in a country where corruption is well known concern that's what we intended to do. We owed it to our donors, you...hopefully ;) and we owed it to the people in real need.