A recent Texas State graduate has transformed her trip to Nepal into a humanitarian mission after the country was hit in late April by a devastating earthquake.
Ashley Jordan initially travelled to Nepal to jumpstart a career in international development work but felt compelled to stay after the region was rocked by a 7.8 magnitude quake. Since April 25, Jordan has personally coordinated the dispersal of thousands of dollars in aid to earthquake victims.
Jordan said she was lying in bed, looking at her phone just before noon April 25 when the earthquake hit.
“My first thought was, ‘Wow…a very large truck is driving by outside the window,’” Jordan wrote in a personal blog entry. “After no more than two seconds I realized that this was something else. I jumped to my feet, the ground shaking beneath me, feeling like the (die) trapped inside the magic 8-ball.”
Jordan remembers seeing people running to escape from the shaking buildings as the earthquake progressed, she said.
“People were pouring out of their restaurants, homes and shops and into the crowded road,” Jordan said in her blog. “Every person’s face read pure panic and terror as the rumbling continued. People were crying, screaming, running around in search of open spaces and their loved ones.”
She said she would never forget the sound of the earthquake. Jordan described it as “a pot of boiling water about to bubble over, or a train with too many screws loose, about to derail.”
Jordan said before the earthquake she spent her time in Nepal exploring, touring historical sites and taking in the country’s“unique and intoxicating” culture.
She had originally planned on staying in Nepal for another month. Since April 25, Jordan has decided to extend her visa to give back to a people she describes as “some of the most hospitable that I’ve ever met.”
For Jordan, the decision to stay was simple.
“I decided to stay because it was the only thing that made sense,” Jordan said. “The people were desperate for assistance and I had means to help, so why not?”
Jordan is currently working with a group of about 35 locals to bring relief to some of the “hardest hit and hardest to reach mountain villages,” she said.
The group has so far brought aid to more than 500 households, benefiting more than 2,600 people, Jordan said. Provided relief packets included a tarp for temporary shelter, a foam sleeping mat, one week’s worth of food, blankets, soap and other essentials.
A doctor accompanies the group to remote areas to provide medicine and much-needed medical attention, she said.
Corruption and inefficiency in the Nepalese government have compelled locals to organize their own grassroots aid missions. At times, Jordan witnessed the Nepalese government turning away aid trucks because of bureaucratic technicalities, she said.
“Many groups of locals throughout Nepal have organized similar missions because nobody trusts the government enough to do it themselves, or to use donated money properly,” Jordan said. “So far, they’ve been right. Nepal was in no way prepared for a disaster of this magnitude, and the government is totally ill-equipped to handle the job of reconstruction.”
Locally organized assistance has proved especially important, considering the failures of international aid groups in getting money and resources to earthquake victims. She said unlike larger international organizations, local groups know exactly where their money is being spent.
“We didn’t have to waste any money on administrative or operational costs because all of us were volunteers, and we were already here,” Jordan said. “We were able to purchase everything in Narayangarh, hire some trucks, and go straight to the villages that needed help.”
Jordan has worked to collect donations from around the world through a page she created on crowdfunding platform GoFundMe. The page has so far gathered over $4,000 since its creation in early May.
John Gorman, a singer-songwriter based in Austin, decided to help Jordan raise money by organizing a benefit concert. When Gorman heard his friend, Jordan, needed money to continue her work in Nepal, he knew exactly what to do.
“It was like a bat signal for me,” Gorman said.
#Rock4Relief will feature more than 10 local artists June 14 at the Red Eyed Fly in Austin, he said.
“Basically every dollar I have at the end of the night is going to Nepal,” Gorman said.
Singer-songwriter Jennifer Cook said she volunteered to play at the benefit concert because she feels a connection with natural beauty of the Nepalese people and their country.
Cook regularly visits with Nepalese friends at her neighborhood corner store, an interaction she claims has made a distant tragedy more local and personal.
“What’s not to love about Nepal?” Cook said. “How could you say no?”