Every time there is an international tragedy, there is an outpouring of global support. While it’s sad that it takes such disastrous events to make us feel like one world instead of many countries, it is simultaneously heartwarming to see the lengths that people will go to in order to help those in need, regardless of location.
But what happens after that initial onslaught? What about when the tragedy slips off the radar of the public conscious, and the media has moved on to the next ratings booster?
Do these tragedies go away? Does it mean they have solved all of the problems and survivors are able to go back to life as they knew it?
Unfortunately, no. Despite a general lack of media coverage, there is still an Ebola outbreak in West Africa. And remember the Haiti earthquake of 2010? Despite their vow to “build back better,” Haiti is still struggling to deal with an onslaught of cholera that began 10 months after the earthquake.
I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty about these things. Rather, I am hoping to inspire you with a story, and a new initiative by a group of people that I am proud to call my friends.
I first met Allen Gula when he picked my group up from the airport in Accra, Ghana, actually 3 years ago to the day that I am writing this blog entry. I was one in a group of fifty undergraduate students, all interested in both international work and healthcare. Our mission was to spend 10 days in rural Ghana, holding health clinics where people could be seen by local doctors who volunteered their time, and we could dispense medications that we had collected as donations back in the USA. This effort was coordinated through the group Global Brigades, an organization that has done admirable student-led development work in Honduras, Panama, Ghana, and Nicaragua.
Allen was extremely warm and cheery, and I could tell that we were in for a fun and inspiring trip. We met Orion Haas later that night at our hotel, where he gave us a bit of a briefing on what to expect and how the days would run. Although neither of them were our specific brigade leaders, they were around for most of our trip, and led yoga in the mornings for anyone who wanted to join.
Allen and Orion had both been working with Global Brigades for quite some time, and had actually been the ones to spearhead the development of the programs in Ghana. Although they have moved on from Global Brigades, they have both continued to travel while also getting involved in community projects within the USA.
And it was their adventurous spirits that led them to be hiking near Everest Base camp in April 2015.
Some would call it fate, others just a coincidence, but to Allen and Orion, it was a calling. There they were, lucky to be alive, and eager to help. They spent the immediate aftermath touring the countryside, distributing supplies and helping where they could, as well as assessing the damage.
But their previous experience in international work has taught them a lot about development, and they quickly realized that the work being done was not going to be sustainable in the long run. Yes, it was important to get up temporary shelters, but what about after that? Who would still be around to help the people of Nepal in rebuilding their homes and improving their situation, rather than just returning to the status quo?
And so from that question, a new beginning arose. Orion and Alan have teamed up with their friend Juliette Maas to start a fundraiser and a new project, called Conscious Impact. The goal of Conscious Impact, as stated on the home page of their website, is simple:
They are accepting both donations and applications for volunteers to start rebuilding Nepal sustainably, and guarantee that 100% of funds raised will go straight to the Nepali people. This is a real, boots-on-the-ground effort that will allow those affected to have a say in how they rebuild.
While their group may be small, I know from previous experience that these guys will put 100% of themselves into their work, and will remain in Nepal for as long as they are needed.
With so many charity options out there, it can be difficult to figure out where to donate or which causes need your attention most. While I can’t make that decision for you, if this story spoke to you, I encourage you to visit the website, find out more, and consider volunteering or donating to this worthy cause. Because life does not go back to normal when the media onslaught ends in the wake of a tragedy. And by supporting Conscious Impact, we can strive to make life better than just normal for the people of rural Nepal.