Every day when I come home from work, I pass by a sign that says “Neighborhood Watch.” The sign gives me and my fellow Winnemucca residents a sense of belonging and comfort. We watch out for one another and do our best to help each other out of tight spots. My wife Anju and I believe that these are universal concepts. We’re part of a global community and we want to help our neighbors if and when we can.
I can tell you that, as an underground mining professional, I work in the shadow of Mother Nature and understand its power better than most. But I must say I was not prepared for what I experienced in Nepal.
Anju and I both have roots in India, which shares a border with Nepal. This past spring, Nepal was devastated by two major earthquakes in less than a month. More than 8,600 people were killed with twice as many injured, and millions were left homeless.
In late May, Anju and I decided to take a volunteer trip to Nepal. We would bring as many tents as we could carry along with a small donation. We flew to New Delhi and took a train to Gorakhpur in northeast India about 70 kilometers from the Nepal border. We had initially planned to drive to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, but after crossing into Nepal we chose to fly instead due to the frequent seismic activity and risk of a mudslide. A good hearted supervisor at the airport in Bhairava, Nepal, who had learned of our cause, waived the check-in fees for the two large bags we were carrying. In all, it took about 40 hours to reach our destination.
I can tell you that, as an underground mining professional, I work in the shadow of Mother Nature and understand its power better than most. But I must say I was not prepared for what I experienced in Nepal. There were traces of panic and uncertainty everywhere as the people tried to come to terms with the devastation and cope with the aftershocks. I could see the cracks in the loose soil and hundreds, if not thousands, of damaged or destroyed mud-brick houses. Shell-shocked families were living in open areas, many without the shelter of a tent, wondering how they would get through the next day. At night, I heard the creeping sound of earth shaking and witnessed people agonize over decisions that most of us take for granted like, is it safe to go to sleep? There were children everywhere and a pervading fear that the rainy reason, which was well underway, would heap further misery by triggering mudslides.
When I arrived, I was quickly surrounded, as the people knew I was carrying relief tents. Rather than distribute the tents myself, I asked a Nepalese colleague who was familiar with the community — a village about 32 kilometers from Kathmandu — to distribute the tents to people who were most in need. In all, we distributed six tents, which was the maximum we were allowed to bring under airport baggage regulations. Marta Carr and Mike Steenhoek, two colleagues from Barrick’s Turquoise Ridge mine, where I work, each generously donated funds for the tents, as did community members in Winnemucca and Reno. We also provided a $500 donation. Before embarking on our journey, Anju and I explained our mission to our six-year-old daughter, Arushi, and she agreed to contribute to the donation with her piggy bank money.
We spent just two nights in Nepal, but the visit was a stark reminder not to take what we have for granted. But, equally, I will never forget how many of the people I met — many of whom had lost their homes, and some far more than that — told me that they were blessed and thankful for what they have. We continue to pray for the people of Nepal and hope that all different positive efforts from various sections of the world make this earth a better place to live.