Nepal in her heart: Alina Pokhrel ’15 strives to make a difference in her native land

Heller School’s Laurence Simon provides tips on how to give wisely for Nepal relief

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How to give wisely for Nepal relief

Laurence Simon, professor of international development and director of the Heller School’s Center for Global Development and Sustainability, has worked in disaster mitigation and recovery on three continents during his long career in development and disaster response.

In the hours following the earthquake in Nepal, Simon said he heard from many friends and colleagues asking how they could best help relief efforts. He shared with them a guide he wrote on supporting international relief organizations that he had adapted specifically for Nepal’s recovery.

“There are some lessons the disaster response community has learned over the years and which may serve as a guide for your desire to help Nepal,” says Simon. He advises sending cash and contributing to reconstruction and development, not just relief efforts. Select agencies that know the country, and consider local organizations. “Most importantly,” Simon says, “contribute to organizations that aim to lessen vulnerability, not just help rebuild poverty.”

The complete guide is available on the Heller School’s website.

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Last Sunday, Alina Pokhrel’s morning began like any other — until she glanced at her phone. Dozens of text messages and emails from her friends all asked the same question: was her family in Nepal safe in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated that country’s capital, Katmandu, on Saturday.

“I started freaking out,” says Pokhrel ’15. “I had no idea what was going on at first; then, after reading more messages and emails, I learned what had happened and felt so scared.”

Pokhrel learned that her hometown — a place she describes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world — had been rocked by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake April 25, while she was safely asleep, 7,300 miles away, in Waltham. The initial quake was followed by numerous aftershocks, killing thousands and significantly damaging the city.

“I felt helpless, being so far away,” says Pokhrel, a double major in anthropology and environmental studies. “But, thankfully, my family and friends in Katmandu have been accounted for. We have some property damage, but it pales in comparison to what others have suffered. My heart hurts for the people of Katmandu.”

Pokhrel had Nepal — and the welfare of people around the world — in her heart well before the earthquake struck. Before coming to Brandeis, she was involved in climate change talks and global policymaking for a myriad internationally recognized groups, including the United Nations.

“Nepal is the fourth most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change,” she says. “And, on top of that, there is no city planning in place in Katmandu for an earthquake, even though they happen there every six or seven decades.”

Pokhrel, who is also a Wien Scholar, dreams of a career focused on helping people at the local level and as a nationally elected official, possibly even as her nation’s first female prime minister.

In the meantime, she has set her immediate sights on helping her homeland from the Brandeis campus. She organized a prayer service and candlelight vigil at the Peace Garden on Tuesday evening in collaboration with Dean of Students Jamele Adams, and she is raising funds for relief efforts.

“I was very happy that so many came — faculty and staff, the interfaith chaplaincy and all of my friends,” says Pokhrel. “It’s heartwarming and it’s easier to breathe, knowing that people here are aware of the disaster and that they’re with you. It’s amazing.”

Categories: General, International Affairs, Student Life

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