Nepal: Responses to a tragedy

Earlier this week, I posted the following related to earthquake reveal in Nepal:

Give, pray (if you do), stay informed of other ways to help. / Donar, orar (si hagas), informarse de otras maneras para ayudar.

And the link:

To me, those are the three key steps to response to a tragedy. As always happens when I seem to know something innately, I reflected on each. Naturally that took the form of a blog post.

  1. Give — Moving forward from this sort of tragedy takes money. Especially when it occurs in the developing world, i.e. Nepal. Even the richest countries in the world would suffer and Nepal is far from that. Poor infrastructure left Nepal in far worse shape. It is right and just to give money to Nepal.

Except giving is not just the act of willfully releasing money. It means researching where that money goes and ensuring it will be used to help those who receive it. This step is not complete without ensuring that.

According to several friends on the ground in Nepal, the link I posted is a responsible place to send money. I urge you to send money there or another source that you know is reputable.


  1. Pray — I hesitated to put prayer forward because sometimes it gets lumped in with other parts of slacktivist culture. Many see prayer as a passive way to feel like you’ve “done enough,” much like writing #bringbackourgirls. Whether or not hashtag activism is effective, there is truth to the fact that some people do disengage after throwing out a few lines on the internet. Critics of prayer often suggest that it will influence similar apathy.

I argue that that is not in fact the case. Prayer is what you do when you have reached the limit of what you can. Of course, God does not need you to ask to send assistance. God is not a slacktivist. Prayer helps you keep the matter on your heart, in your thoughts, on your conscience, or whatever other metaphor you want to put to it. As God assists in the tragedy, God can assist you to resist complacency and keep in active mind, which can assist in my last step.

  1. Stay Informed — This is the most frustrating step. The step when you need to stay involved without actually doing anything. We cannot stop plate tectonics from shifting. Of course, it is critical to keep that in perspective. That frustration is nothing alongside the suffering felt by those inside the tragedy. Prayer can help you internalize that solidarity and compassion over frustration. It can also help you listen for new ways to get involved.

That does not necessarily mean volunteering. Most of us cannot exactly relocate to volunteer and oftentimes the infrastructure is not in place for volunteers to assist in any meaningful way. That said if you called to it, figure out how to do it right and volunteer.

For the rest of us, I am talking about innovative strategies to assist beyond a donation and prayer. Strategies that may not be super straight-forward, like working to reduce the tragedy when the plates inevitably shift again in Nepal or elsewhere in the world.

Peru could easily become Nepal within the next few decades. The infrastructure is disorganized and aging. The poorest live in houses like the one for which we helped to build a retaining wall back when we arrived in August. They are built on loose, rocky soil and up the sides of hills and mountains. Peru is situated on several shifting plates. Again, we cannot stop them shifting.

That does not mean we should ignore how human institutions contribute to the tragedy, especially in the developing world. We can generally reorganize such that no one is relegated to the most vulnerable areas of the world and extent promote earthquake-friendly infrastructure.

While most of us do not have the position or power to direct that planning, we can advocate and support accordingly. The HILTI Foundation or Earthquakes without Frontiers offers an intriguing and capable model for how to move forward and build intelligently and equitably to reduce tragedy in the future.

Of course, I am no expert in this. Urban organization is not specialty, but it is other folks’ primary area of interest. Best to just start with listening.

Also, remember to keep your expectations in check. Recognize that you may not be able to change everything, but that does not justify abandoning the cause. Prayer can ostensibly help you with that as well.

2 thoughts on “Nepal: Responses to a tragedy”

  1. Thanks Kyle!  Always a help to hear other’s ideas and your insights are always thought provoking. 

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