This past year has been no ordinary year for the people of Nepal. Widespread poverty, monsoons and the harsh Himalayan winter have imposed many difficulties and challenges upon the mountainous country. These challenges, while stark and unforgiving, are not out of the ordinary. These challenges have been especially gruelling this past year given they came in the aftermath of the 7.9 earthquake which struck central Nepal on April 25th last year.
That earthquake, followed in May by another, has brought about unprecedented levels of death and destruction and left the already poverty ridden state in a perpetual state of need for humanitarian response. Now, 1 year on from the disaster, the challenges that face the Nepalese people are just as stark even without the immediate fear of death. GOAL's are manager in Nepal discusses his work and the situation in Nepal.
Having lived and worked in Nepal at different times since 2007, I was well aware that the country was due a big earthquake, with one apparently coming around every 70 years or so. With the last quake having struck the country in 1934, it has always been on my radar. This was the main reason I wanted to get into humanitarian work and move away from my child protection/development background. When the earthquake hit, I wanted to be on the first flight out. As it happened, I had been applying for various roles within GOAL for a few weeks before the quake. Once I made the decision to work in this field, GOAL was the only Irish agency I was interested in working with. I knew their reputation and I knew that they would be one of the first agencies out here – which is exactly how it played out.
I heard news of the earthquake first thing on Saturday morning, April 25th. Given my previous organisation, The Umbrella Foundation – currently one of GOAL’s partner, had more than 300 children still unaccounted for, it was a tough call to get. Through a friend of a friend of a friend, I managed to get through to Darren Hanniffy (GOAL’s Regional Director for Asia, who happened to be in Dublin). I met him a few hours later and the decision was made there and then to fly out the following day. It was that quick action that I’d heard about that originally attracted me to GOAL, and it’s been a key factor in our operation’s success here so far. GOAL’s ability to make decisions on our feet and get around the many geographical and political challenges of working in a country like Nepal is the main reason why our programme here has been as successful as it has in getting relief items to communities. And this is especially true given GOAL has chosen to work in some of the most remote parts of the country.
As a newcomer to humanitarian work, it’s been a full on first year, but one that I’ve gotten a huge amount out of, and enjoyed more than I thought possible, given the circumstances. The days are long and conditions challenging, but we’ve managed to put together a team that makes coming to work very easy. We’re all here for the same reasons, there are no egos, no clock-watchers and we all know that there’s a job to be done.
If that job requires 12-hour days or 7-day weeks, then I know my colleagues will do that. They don’t have to be asked. They know what we’re trying to do. The quicker we get our job done, the quicker a family have a secure roof over their heads, or an extra blanket to get them through the winter.
It’s a special team working with very special communities, and as corny as it sounds, I feel lucky to be doing the job I’m doing, with an organisation whose values are in sync with my own.
- Stephen Jenkinson is Area Manager with GOAL in Nepal