NEPAL EARTHQUAKES:

MEET OUR FIRST RESPONDERS

First Responders are the ordinary people delivering extraordinary action wherever they are in the world. International Medical Corps’ First Responders in Nepal responding to the 7.8 earthquake on April 25th and 7.3 earthquake on May 12th are no exception. Read more about their experiences below.


This is one of the best emergency operations I have ever been a part of”

Tapan
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer
HOME: India

“We have been doing latrine construction and hygiene sessions in urban and rural areas. It’s important because health and hygiene go hand in hand. If communities don’t have access to safe sanitation, their health is greatly compromised – especially children.”

Originally from India, Tapan immediately deployed with International Medical Corps following the earthquake to help his neighboring country of Nepal. Tapan and the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) team have been instrumental in providing access to latrines, hygiene education and vital supplies to ensure the health of communities now living in tents following the disaster.

On Tuesday, May 19, Tapan and his Nepali teammates Shristi, Deepika and Amir spent the day overseeing the construction of latrines in Pokheri Village in Gorkha, the epicenter of the first earthquake. They also helped local families by providing hygiene education and distributing hygiene kits which included supplies critical in preventing the spread of communicable diseases. After a hard day’s work, the team settled into their tents to camp for the night. The helicopter that took them to the remote mountain village wouldn’t be able to return to pick them up until daybreak. Although it was exciting to camp at the edge of the mountain, they quickly began to worry when a light rain turned into a heavy downpour around midnight. This was followed by extremely strong winds, hail the size of golf balls and then a flash flood which left them scrambling for shelter as their tents were washed over the side of the mountain. They found a flimsy shed and took cover, scared, soaked and waiting for the monsoon rains to end. When they thought it couldn’t get any worse, they watched the floods take away all of their gear and food.

At this moment, a family that they had helped that very day by giving them a hygiene education session, came to their rescue. Letting them take cover in their home, giving them warm blankets and making sure they were safe until daybreak when they were reunited with our headquarters team in Kathmandu. We were extremely happy to have them back safe and sound. And what’s more, every latrine the team had installed the previous day remained intact despite Mother Nature. A true testament to the hard work our local team in Nepal has been doing amidst truly exceptional circumstances.

Tapan says, “Working with International Medical Corps has been really amazing. Our team and coordinators are wonderful… I would love to come back to Nepal one day. The situation here is quite similar to those I’ve seen in India following disasters.”


We’ve been to villages that haven’t seen any medical care.”

Kevin Murphy
International Medical Corps Emergency Response Team, RN BSN
HOME: Massachusetts, USA

“The best thing about being an International Medical Corps First Responder is being part of the team and taking care of people who need it most.”

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Kevin got into nursing because he enjoys interacting with people and helping them “turnaround from very ill to healthy and happy”. Part of Mass General Hospital’s staff in Boston, Kevin is also a Major in the Army Nurse Corps! He joined over twenty years ago and has deployed to Iraq to serve in a combat support hospital, among many other missions. Today, he’s using the critical skills he’s developed in the military and through his work at Mass General to volunteer with International Medical Corps in Nepal following the devastating earthquakes.

In Gorkha District, Kevin and his teammates travel by helicopter each day to help remote mountain villages greatly affected by the disaster. Armed with cases of lifesaving medications, supplies and food, they set up a mobile medical unit – including a triage, pharmacy and registration area - within just an hour of landing and begin tending to patients. It’s organized chaos as young and old come out to get medical consultations, wound care and even psychosocial support. Along with International Medical Corps’ local staff, Kevin and the team often camp overnight in the Himalayas and wake up at dawn to do it all over again. “We’ve been to villages that haven’t seen any medical care,” says Kevin. “Our presence shows people that others out there care about what happened to them.”


I knew I needed to help”

Aashreeva
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer
HOME: Kathmandu, Nepal

“Being a First Responder makes me happy because there are a lot of people that need your help. And you’re a small part of the whole big puzzle. You can know your effort has made a difference. To share their sorrows, to hear their stories and to be a part of the relief efforts. It feels good.”

Born and raised in Kathmandu, Aashreeva lives with her parents and younger brother. She’ll graduate from college in two months and dreams of someday working in public service to help come up with long-term humanitarian solutions to support vulnerable communities.The day of the first earthquake she was at home with her Mom when the shaking began. They were upstairs so they immediately ran down the stairs and rushed outside. As the quake went on for almost a minute, they could see their neighbors’ houses shaking and then the wall in front of their house fell down.

Although strong aftershocks continued, Aashreeva knew she had to help those suffering and just 2 days later, found herself working as a translator for International Medical Corps. Today, Aashreeva works as a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Officer, coordinating International Medical Corps’ programs to ensure devastated families have access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation and healthy hygiene practices.

Aashreeva says, “I was really impressed with International Medical Corps’ team after the second major quake that happened. Within a 2-3 hours we were already on our way to Namche Bazaar at the epicenter. International Medical Corps is people of all nationalities helping people in need. It’s really touching to see people working with their full heart day and night to help.”


I feel like I’m helping my country.”

Ajay
Logistics Assistant
HOME: Kathmandu, Nepal

“Mom calls me every day and begs me to sleep in a tent. I still feel anxiety from the earthquake – especially when I’m on the upper floors of buildings. But I’m happy working with International Medical Corps after the earthquake because I feel I have a purpose and I’m helping my community. Plus it takes my mind off things.”

Born and raised in Kathmandu, Ajay lives with his family, including his younger sister. He is six months shy of graduating from college. When the first earthquake struck Nepal, Ajay was in Lamjung District which is very close to the epicenter. He was walking by himself outside when he felt shaking - at first he didn’t think it was a big earthquake. Although the immediate surrounding area he was in was not badly damaged, he began hearing about the extreme devastation throughout Nepal and in the capital of Kathmandu. He immediately began to worry. He tried to text his friend to make sure his family was okay in Kathmandu but the earthquake took out the cell networks. He was relieved when he finally got in touch late that night and found out that they were unharmed.

When he eventually made it back to Kathmandu, Ajay saw damaged houses and buildings with a lot of cracks caused by the earthquake. His mom convinced him to leave the city for a safer area where the family could be together as the aftershocks kept coming, but Ajay knew he had to help those who were less fortunate. Although his family protested, he left with 500 rupees in his pocket and took a 420 rupee bus ride back to Kathmandu. Despite the fact he had just 80 rupees left – the equivalent of about $0.80 - Ajay was determined to respond to help his community recover.

Ajay’s friend Kamal told him about International Medical Corps and the rest is history. Both of the friends now work as First Responders in our Logistics department.

Ajay says, “I procure supplies that are needed by every department of International Medical Corps in Nepal. Medicines, food for our staff, tents. Everything you need to do a humanitarian response. The thing I like about the job is I feel like I’m helping my country.”


I am humbled by the people I am so privileged to serve here in Nepal.”

Kelly Suter
Emergency Health Manager, RN
HOME: Petoskey, Michigan, United States

“It is a privilege and a gift to be the person that gets to bring joy, hope and healing to suffering people. While it can cause my physical body fatigue and pain, at the same time, it gives my heart life, energy and purpose.”

Kelly is from a large Michigan family; she is one of six children. Inspired by her mother’s charitable activities throughout her childhood, Kelly became a nurse seven years ago and has been working and volunteering on humanitarian tours ever since – including in Mexico, the Amazon, Haiti, South Sudan, East Timor and Liberia.

Kelly is now the Emergency Health Manager in Dhading District, Nepal – one of the areas significantly damaged by the April 25th earthquake and make up of mountainous, treacherous terrain. Kelly oversees International Medical Corps’ mobile medical units (MMUs), made up of doctors and nurses, dispatched to mountain villages by helicopter around the district. Once the Nepal Government has identified a remote village that has yet to receive post-earthquake assistance, Kelly accompanies the MMUs in the helicopter and spends two days running health clinics, assessing the level of damage, speaking to community leaders to identify needs and finding patients that may require immediate evacuation to a hospital.

Kelly was present during the second major earthquake on May 12. She said, “Being in post-earthquake Nepal, we had grown accustomed to multiple daily aftershocks and rarely even acknowledged them. As the second earthquake hit Nepal and the ground began to shake that afternoon- growing in intensity with each passing moment- everyone took notice. We all have a better understanding and a deeper respect for what the people of Nepal have been through.”


We are reaching the most inaccessible and hardest-hit villages in Nepal”

Sean Casey
Nepal Emergency Response Coordinator
HOME: Monrovia, Liberia

“I arrived on the afternoon of April 24th, with my friend Claire. The next day, when we were exploring the ancient capital of Bakhtapur along with a Nepalese friend, Ajay, the largest earthquake in more than 80 years hit Nepal. We were almost crushed by a falling building, and spent the rest of that day sprinting through Bakhtapur’s narrow streets, running from square to square through the destroyed 800-year-old city, to escape the recurring terror of the aftershocks. We walked for several hours and eventually made our way back to our hotel, which had partially collapsed, and set up camp.

“That same evening, we started mobilizing International Medical Corps’ response. We were joined by a handful of strangers-come-friends who shared our campsite and who wanted to help. Over the days that followed, more staff and volunteers arrived, and our response scaled up; we chartered helicopters to reach the most remote villages, and we worked to bring safe water and sanitation facilities to displaced persons living in camps in Kathmandu and in destroyed villages around the epicenter.”

Sean Casey is International Medical Corps’ Regional Director for the Ebola Response. Sean was the first person deployed to West Africa for International Medical Corps’ Ebola Response in early August 2014, and he has since overseen the start-up of five Ebola Treatment Units that have screened over 1,600 people and discharged 172 Ebola survivors.

In April 2014, as the number of new Ebola infections each week fell to single figures, Sean finally took a break from his work in West Africa to go on holiday in Nepal when the earthquake struck.

READ MORE PERSONAL FIRST RESPONDER STORIES FROM NEPAL FEATURED IN THE MEDIA:

The Mountains Are Angry , The New England Journal of Medicine, by Annekathryn Goodman, M.D.

City dad flew to help Nepal quake victims (Thomas Fergusson), Milton Keynes Citizen

Price alum leads medical response team to treat Nepal quake victims (Tim Collins), University of Southern California