Finding space to work and thrive with the Red Cross family in Nepal

Published: 23 July 2015 12:08 CET

By Anne Reynolds, IFRC Relief ERU

Nepal has always been a place that I wanted to visit, but until now I had never made the trip.  Like most Red Crossers, when I saw the devastation following the earthquakes I felt the strong desire to help. Thankfully, I have the great privilege to make that desire reality. As an American Red Cross international disaster services roster member, I joined a relief emergency response unit with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

I deployed to Nepal on 21 June and, after a few days in Kathmandu, I headed out to the Makwanpur District. Makwanpur is located just 90 minutes from the border with India, and encompasses very diverse topography. The area ranges in altitude from just over 500 feet (152 metres) to over 8,000 feet (2,440 metres) above sea level. There are number of rivers running through the district, and the roads in and around the area can be quite treacherous.  Inevitably there is always a section of the winding, narrow, switch-back road that has experienced at least a small landslide. The blind curves cause the drivers to honk constantly, and we are always on alert. No Sunday driving here!  

The district headquarters is in Hetauda, a small but bustling city, and I have been working primarily from the Nepal Red Cross Society Chapter Headquarters here. The local Red Cross staff is simply amazing! Our goal is to reach 2,000 households with kitchen equipment, shelter kits, cash, and hygiene kits. In the 15 days I have been here, we have managed to meet with the local government officials for all the areas where distributions will occur, coordinate and agree on beneficiary lists, conduct a 10 per cent audit to ensure we are reaching the most affected areas, secure distribution sites, conduct distribution training for 25 local staff, and successfully complete two distributions in which 380 beneficiaries were served.

Beneficiaries have been so happy to receive items, and we have experienced no negative responses. The staff is proud of their accomplishments, and they are feeling confident about their ability to establish distribution sites and conduct distributions. 

This week, we are moving to a municipality known as Thaha, and will provide items and cash to over 1,500 more households. The local staff has really got the system down, and we are confident we can reach over 300 beneficiaries per day.

My experience in Makwanpur has been truly exceptional.  I have been fully embraced by the Red Cross family, and they have shown me nothing but kindness, generosity and appreciation since the day I arrived. I had always heard about the kindness of the Nepali people, and I can know say first hand it is so very true. I feel like I have really been living here in Nepal, not just visiting. The work has been hard, the days tiring, but I have enjoyed great friendship, and Nepalese food, daily. My daily coffee routine has been replaced with my new favorite – milk tea!  It is a special blend made here in town, and my friends here ask me all day long if I want more. I must admit, I say “yes” probably too often.

Words cannot accurately describe the special place Nepal and my new family in Makwanpur will forever hold in my heart.

This has not been just a mission for me, but rather a life changing experience, for which I will be eternally grateful.