A charity started by two students to help children in Nepal has refocused to get earthquake relief to people who aren’t getting aid they need.
Manjul Bhusal Sharma ’16 and Maher Latif ’17 started Reinstalling Hope after volunteering at rural schools in the Himalayan country last summer. The organization, which connects international volunteers with development projects for public school students, will remain dedicated indefinitely to recovery from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit April 25, killing more than 7,800 people.
“Schools will need time to function like before. For things to get back to normal, it will at least take several months, if not years,” said Bhusal Sharma, whose parents in Kathmandu were unharmed. The damage to the top floor of their home is slight compared with the total loss for others who don’t have money to rebuild, he said.
Bhusal Sharma, an economics and math major, and Latif, an economics and modern languages and literatures major from Upper Arlington, Ohio, answered some questions to explain their charity’s latest work:
Bring people up-to-date on Reinstalling Hope’s efforts to collect money and supplies. What has been needed most?
Latif: Reinstalling Hope has raised about $2,700 from its online fundraiser so far. With the first $300 dollars, we were able to buy clean water and food to distribute to victims. While food, blankets, tents and medicine are of highest need, trying to send items from here is not as pragmatic during this time of immediate need because they would need to clear customs in Nepal. Monetary donations are definitely the most effective.
Bhusal Sharma: The Kenyon College Greek Council organized a benefit at the Village Inn in April that raised $186. The Kenyon Hillel has set up a blue bin at the (Rothenberg) Hillel House in which people can donate unneeded items, including clothes, stationery and first-aid kits. We plan to send the collected items when feasible to aid the students of the Snowland Ranag Light of Education School, where we volunteered last year. The kids have been outside on the grounds because the school suffered major damage during the earthquake.
How does the organization get supplies where they need to go in a country whose infrastructure has been so damaged?
Latif: We wire the money raised directly to the core volunteer team in Kathmandu. We keep in touch over the phone. The volunteers first identify the people who need the relief packages the most by going around in private motorbikes and cars. We are concerned about the schools where we volunteered since our organization has a special bond with those students.
Bhusal Sharma: We purchase items of need, mostly pre-cooked food items that have high-calorie values, to distribute among the students and other people. Shopkeepers have hiked the prices of certain items because of high demand, but not all of them are looking to cash in on the opportunity. We keep receipts for everything we buy and will post a budget and expenditure sheet once we have accomplished what we can with the funds.
How can organizations like yours help compared with traditional aid organizations, such as the Red Cross?
Bhusal Sharma: Grassroots organizations like ours are mostly powered by the determination and time contributed by local volunteers. That enables us to reach smaller communities and identify people who are marginalized. Nepal could use as much help as possible right now. During such a big disaster there are numerous things that need attention. Both approaches have their own importance.
Reinstalling Hope is incapable of effectively using a donation of more than $5,000 for earthquake relief because of our limited resources. We could use bigger donations for long-term projects geared toward youth in rural areas. Since we do not pay our volunteers, we can say with pride that quite literally every single penny goes toward reconstruction and relief packages.
Bhusal Sharma and Latif began Reinstalling Hope with $3,300 they initially raised online last year to volunteer at two schools and buy materials and set up student scholarships. The charity is collecting earthquake relief donations through its website or gofundme.com/helpnepalrecover