Two Years After a Natural Disaster

It snuck up on me this year. April 25th was the two year anniversary of the 7.8M earthquake in Nepal.   It was a defining day in my life, and as many of you have supported (morally and financially) my efforts since then, this month’s blog seems a good place to give recap of ParticipAid’s work in the last year. 

 About a week after the earthquake, there were 8 of us living out of this little shelter!  Pictured here with the Neupane family and Nat, my partner and ParticipAid co-founder.  

About a week after the earthquake, there were 8 of us living out of this little shelter!  Pictured here with the Neupane family and Nat, my partner and ParticipAid co-founder.  

My goal has always been to use my knowledge and resources to improve the health of Nepal’s rural communities in a way that really lasts.  That's looked like a lot of things in the last decade!  To that end, ParticipAid’s founding purpose was not to make an impact on what happens, but on how things happen.  We set out to offer programs that strengthened local capacity, with the assumption that strong local organizations that value community participation will foster community resilience.  I think that might actually be happening, but I’ll come back to that later.   

Our partner organization is called Share Nepal, and a year ago we had just published a baseline survey that was the product of our participatory assessment training with them.  We were in the final stages of our participatory planning training, and I was swimming in translations of the project plans Share Nepal had designed with their neighbors and colleagues. 

We finished translating that rebuilding plan and it is displayed in all its glory on the Participatory Planning page of our site.  Please check it out!   ParticipAid was able to help secure funding for four priority projects from that rebuilding plan – goat raising, lemon farming, irrigation, and community health.  So far these projects are providing a new source of income for 137 of the most vulnerable families in the area.  You might find it surprising, as did I, that home reconstruction was not a priority for Share Nepal.  Families are rebuilding on their own timelines with the support of a series of small grants from the government.  The grants are helpful, but not sufficient, to rebuild their homes.  So income generation remains the top priority for many rural folks.  Share Nepal leaders have been trained in proposal writing now, so we’re hoping to see funding secured independently in the coming months. That will be a big landmark for both ParticipAid and Share Nepal.              

 Here's some of Share Nepal's most talented and silly on a little exploration trip we took to learn about goat farming.  

Here's some of Share Nepal's most talented and silly on a little exploration trip we took to learn about goat farming.  

The biggest news from Nepal now is the long awaited establishment of local government!  It’s been 18 years since the national government has recognized leadership at the village level.  In the last months, rural municipalities have been re-imagined and new borders drawn.  In two weeks there will be a country wide election to select local leaders.  This is a HUGE step for the country.  All mechanisms for community development will be re-ordered with more local control, and I anticipate many things will change for the better.     

We’ve learned a thing or two in the last year, and our path forward as an organization is becoming more clear.  I’m happy/sad to report I won’t be headed back to Nepal until about this time next year.  Happy because there’s really not a big need for me to be physically there.  And sad for the same reason.  When they need it, Share Nepal has expert mentorship in-country from ParticipAid’s co-founder Kamal.  It seems the programs we’ve provided have been effective so far, and it’s time to test that. 

I just landed a job here in Portland, one I think will allow me enough time and energy to pursue opportunities that can help ParticipAid continue our capacity-building work, and measure just how effective we are at it.  In the coming year, we’d like to offer a Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation training that builds on the skills Share Nepal has developed in the last 1.5 years.  In the states, ParticipAid is still a project of my alma mater (National University of Natural Medicine), but over the last year I’ve been collaborating with Portland State University (SWEET Lab) and am learning a lot from new colleagues and mentors (Global PDX).  I can’t guess what exactly the future holds, but I’m looking forward to it.  If you want to stay tuned on Nepal’s recovery and ParticipAid’s moves, please sign up for our monthly updates!