When the Middlebury Institute community learned of the devastating earthquake in Nepal on Sunday, many thought immediately of the people they know personally from that area. We have received updates from Archana Karki Chhetri BAIS ’08, MAIPS ’09 and Bishnu Adhikari MAIEP ’07, who are currently active in organizing relief efforts as a logical extension of their work in the development field.
Bishnu was awarded the 2010 Choice Humanitarian of the Year award for his work to bring a model of sustainable development to numerous villages and districts in Nepal. He is passionate about improving lives while always conscious about the impact of our actions on nature and the environment. He and his family live in Kathmandu, where relief efforts have been hampered by difficult access because “all three of the major roads into the Kathmandu Valley (from India, China, and Western Nepal) were blocked due to landslides and destroyed bridges.” In a recent update to family and friends, Bishnu said that so far, there has been enough food in the valley to sustain the population, but that would not last long. Bishnu and his family in Kathmandu are currently living outside their house, only entering briefly to use the bathroom or get supplies because of safety concerns. Heavy rain has compounded the danger of spreading diseases as efforts to remove bodies have been slow. There was news today that the major road from China was opened, and hope for more routes to clear in the coming days. Bishnu is confident that means much needed supplies will begin to flow into the city.
Archana is another award-winning social entrepreneur. Her family business is 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking, founded by Lucky, Dicky and Nicky Chhetri in Pokhara (four hours from the epicenter) as an agency to expand employment options for women in a society where they are often not allowed or encouraged to work outside the home. Through their nonprofit organization, Empowering Women of Nepal (EWN), they have provided trekking and guiding training for over 2,000 Nepalese women, many of whom have found employment working as guides or assistant guides, while others have used the training as a basis for other employment opportunities. They also run a shelter for young girls rescued from child labor, providing them with educational opportunities, a safe environment and “lots of love.” Archana says Pokhara is much better off than towns closer to the epicenter. Everyone in her family and the children in the home are safe, but scared. She herself suffered a minor injury to her leg (20 stitches) that has frustrated her because it prevents her from helping on the ground; instead, she has worked around the clock raising funds and organizing relief efforts.
“In a week, we will be travelling to the remote districts and providing ground support. We have been collecting medical supplies, food, tarps, water, blankets and clothing,” says Archana, adding that friends have been emailing them from all over the world to ask how best to support EWN’s efforts. They are updating their website at www.3sistersadventuretrek.com as often as possible, and have information there for anyone wanting to make a contribution.