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Campus & Community

After Earthquake, Nepali Drexel Students, Grad Rallying for Their Country

June 17, 2015

Relief workers handing out food in Nepal in the days following devastating earthquakes in April.
Relief workers handing out food in Nepal in the days following devastating earthquakes in April.

When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rumbled at the end of April, nothing like it had happened in Nepal in recent memory.

In the time since, the Nepalese have suffered multiple aftershocks — including a particularly strong rumbler that metered at 7.3 — and residents fear even more will rattle what buildings weren’t destroyed by the first quakes.

When those first quakes struck, Drexel graduate Anuja Kapri was in Nepal working at her family’s textile manufacturing company. The 2014 graduate immediately leapt into action, taking advantage of the connections her family’s business provided.

“When disaster struck, I reached out to my staff immediately and asked them to reach out to their families in their villages to gather information about the scale of destruction and what relief they needed,” Kapri said. “Since I had direct contact with the villages as soon as the earthquake took place, I was able to act quickly.”

Based out of the capital, Kathmandu, Kapri coordinated the delivery of aid and supplies to rural villages. In one instance, Neuro Hospital in Kathmandu reached out to determine where to dispatch a team of doctors and nurses.

Ashish Timilsina working to help earthquake survivors in Nepal.
Ashish Timilsina working to help earthquake survivors in Nepal.

Ashish Timilsina, who is studying software engineering at Drexel, actually joined his friend Kapri’s efforts. He’d been headed to Kathmandu for a family function but the earthquake struck while he was in an airport in Dubai.

Timilsina said many Nepali people work in or near Dubai in the Middle East and send money home. They heard about the earthquake just as they were preparing to board their flight.

“They were devastated,” Timilsina said. “People were crying because with that money they were making in the Middle East, they built their houses in Nepal and feed their families in Nepal. When all of that is gone, it’s an awful feeling. Even when I wasn’t in Nepal yet, just in the airport, but it was a sad feeling.”

Timilsina lived in Nepal until he was in fifth grade, when he moved with his father, who works for the United Nations. They kept a home in Nepal and once Timilsina got there, they found it had been damaged.

“People have no place to live,” said Timilsina whose family escaped injury. “I, myself, had to live outside in tents because my house is kind of tilted. It’s not safe to live in those houses.”

In addition to basic supplies like food, water and medicine, Kapri agreed that shelter was a pressing need.

Homes in Kathmandu damaged during earthquakes that struck Nepal earlier this year.
Homes in Kathmandu damaged during earthquakes that struck Nepal earlier this year.

“Thousands of people are living under the naked sky with no roof over their heads,” she said. “The best case scenario for these people are tarpaulins that have been handed out as relief aid, but that is not a permanent solution or even a medium-term one. Monsoon [season] is also fast-approaching and it may bring with it many epidemics.”

After helping Kapri distribute supplies, Timilsina returned to Drexel, but his heart remains in his native country. He’s continuing to work to raise funds for the ongoing earthquake relief efforts. Although the earthquake struck back in April, it will take a long time, likely years, until the country can fully recover.

“What I’m trying to do is make Drexel aware of what happened in Nepal,” he said.

Another current Drexel student doing what he can to help his native country is Surya Pandey.

A first-year PhD student in neurobiology, Pandey came to the United States in 2008 for college. His family, who live in the capital, were spared injury but “there’s a maximum amount of damage in the capital itself.”

“Being here, we really felt helpless,” Pandey said of himself and his Nepali friends, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems graduate students Susmik Lama and Kriti Acharya. “We felt we could help efforts back home.”

They created a CrowdRise page called “Drexel Dragons for Nepal: Earthquake Relief Fund.” Donations will go toward organizations providing both immediate relief and setting up long-term planning, such as rebuilding schools.

“We’re assured by friends back that these are the organizers that are really doing the job,” Pandey said.

He likes the idea of the funds potentially being used to build a school, “because this is money being raised by people at an educational institution.”

Even while busy dealing with aftershocks and continuing to coordinate relief, Kapri found inspiration.

“I hope to attend graduate school in the field of either international relations/affairs or public health,” she said. “This is something that has always been of interest to me and this experience was an eye-opening one about the work that is needed to be done in my country.”


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