May 26, 2015

Nepalese students and staff hold fundraiser for earthquake relief

by Dikshya Bastakoty

The community of Nepalese students and staff at Vanderbilt organized an earthquake relief fundraiser on Monday, May 18.

The group, consisting of Vanderbilt graduate students, staff, alum and their friends, are of Nepalese origin and have families in Nepal.

“Our families and friends are traumatized by the continuous tremors, and the earthquake has caused a lot of damage to the infrastructures in the country; we wanted to do something to support the rebuilding efforts back home,” said Pranita Mishra, health policy data analyst at the Department of Health Policy.

Nepal, a mountainous country in South Asia, suffered a massive earthquake, 7.8 Richter scale in magnitude, on April 25. The death toll from the quake is reported to exceed 8,600. The country, situated between the Eurasian and the Indian tectonic plates, has since experienced more than 150 aftershocks up to 7.3 Richter scale in magnitude.

The fundraiser held at the Student Life Center featured Sagar Onta, a Nashville resident, who spent three weeks in Nepal working with relief organizations to help with the rescue and rebuilding efforts. Onta, a Nepali native, was in Kathmandu visiting family when the earthquake occurred.

“While my loved ones are safe, being there in person helped me understand the extent of devastation in many areas, and the urgent need to rehabilitate the victims before the impending monsoon,” Onta said.

The fundraiser had about 120 attendees, including Vanderbilt faculty, staff and students, as well as members of the Nashville community. About $4,500 in donations was collected. Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor for Global Health, who was one of the attendees, said, “The event succeeded in both [its] fundraising and educational goals, highlighting urgent humanitarian needs.”

Additional pledges of support were received from local businesses in Nashville.

“We are pleased by the turnout and overwhelmed by the support that the Vanderbilt and Nashville community has shown for Nepal,” Mishra said of the success of the fundraiser.

The group plans to organize other events in Nashville to promote awareness and raise funds for the relief efforts in Nepal.

All of the donations will be given to the Samaanta Foundation, which is working to provide relief to rural and inaccessible quake-affected regions of Nepal.