The week has been frustrating, with dropped calls and connections so bad that Tsewang's voice was chopped into nonsensical sounds. Nevertheless, we have managed to talk nearly every day since the earthquake, and this is what I know:
The 240 kids and staff at Shree Mangal Dvip School (SMD) are safe, though still sleeping outside under tarps. They have food and water so far, and they have opened the school grounds to others for shelter. Many of the children's villages are gone, and some still do not know if their families are alive and safe. Tsewang's family is safe, though their homes are gone. Most of his village in Nubri, which is in the hardest-hit district of Ghorka, has been destroyed. Like many of the remote villages in Nepal devastated by the earthquake, they are in desperate need of water, food, and shelter. I cannot imagine the stress and fear that the kids must be feeling— not knowing the status of their loved ones back home, and not knowing how to help them. The news from Nepal is that the government is not sending villages any help and support, and that most of the aid is being focused on the Kathmandu area. Survivors are essentially starving on the hillsides and mountains.
As for my dear artists, the original group whom I've been teaching for the past five years, news has been trickling in. Most are safe, though emotionally exhausted and fearful of more aftershocks. They are doing their best to support the littler ones, and to help out in any capacity they can (you can see Kiran, Tsewang, Nyima, and Tsering D. above). As several of the original group graduated (SMD only goes up to 10th grade), many of them are no longer at school. One of my boys, Tsering Lama, was hospitalised after a wall fell on him, and no one seems to know exactly where he is or how badly he is injured. No one has any news from Phurbu Nyima, or the two Pembas. Last I knew, they were in their villages.
I have had a difficult time sleeping and focusing, not knowing if they are safe, not knowing if the families of all the kids are safe, and knowing that they are afraid. I do not know yet how to get help to the villages, but I do know how to help the school.
The Himalayan Children's Fund (HCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in the United States, dedicated to supporting SMD, along with the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and abbey founded by Thrangu Rinpoche. I fully trust HCF, as I have donated funds through them in the past, and know that they money does indeed reach the school. I also sponsor one of SMD's fine young artists through HCF.
One of the easiest ways to donate is through Network For Good. Follow this link to the HCF page:
To support Shree Mangal Dvip School, please type "Earthquake relief for SMD" in the designation box when you are making your donation. Your donation however, can be designated or undesignated— if it is undesignated, the money will be distributed where it is needed between SMD, SMD's clinic, the monasteries, and the abbey. For more information, please read the latest HCF newsletter.
I thank you for all the kind words of support that I have received, and hope that you will keep my dear ones and the people of Nepal in your hearts and thoughts.
All photos are from Shirley Blair and Tsering D.