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Nepal Earthquake Relief 2015 Page 1


NEPAL EARTHQUAKE RELIEF
2015

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Nepal Earthquake Relief 2015 Page 1


NEPAL EARTHQUAKE RELIEF
2015

Massive earthquake DEVASTATES nepal 

Watts of Love solar lighting can meet a critical need in the wake of a natural disaster. In April 2015, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale devastated the country of Nepal. Countless aftershocks, some measuring as high as 7.3, continued to violently shake the region.

The earthquake killed more than 8,800 people and injured twice as many. It also triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, making it the deadliest day in mountain history. In the end, more than 450,000 people were displaced.

It was an unimaginable disaster, striking innocent people who were caught completely unaware and unprepared. This devastating earthquake flattened many of the homes in rural villages across Nepal, some of which were built and added onto over the course of hundreds of years.

A couple of weeks after the area was deemed safe for aid to enter the region, Watts of Love founder, Nancy Economou, texted Kevin Kuster during church, not knowing Kevin’s pastor had just spoken to the congregation about supporting the people of Nepal. Nancy’s text to Kevin said, “Let’s do something [for the Nepalese people].” 

Kevin went home, set up a fundraising page, and three hours later, without any knowledge of what Nancy and Kevin had discussed, Kevin’s pastor called and asked, “If we’re going to partner with you to help with Nepal what would that look like?” It was karma.

Between the funds raised and donated from Soul City Church Chicago, IL, pastored by Jarrett and Jeannie Stevens, and St. Dennis Church in Lockport, IL, pastored by Fr. Jim Curtin (who allowed WOL to present their project and financial needs at their church), the project met half its fundraising needs. The balance came from individual donations, but Nancy and Kevin committed to the project long before the money was in place.

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Nepal Earthquake Relief 2015 Page 2


Nepal Earthquake Relief 2015 Page 2


To assist them on the ground in Nepal, Nancy and Kevin joined forces with Iris Nepal led by Joel and Tammy DeBortoli. Iris was instrumental with logistical needs, including ground transportation, shelter and supplies, locating villages to receive lights, and working with the Nepal government to push through the lights that were stuck in customs for two days.

The Nepal trip was the first time that WOL brought a team of volunteers on a light distribution trip. In addition to Kevin and Nancy, the team included: Susan Starr, Betsy Hurley, Joseph Kosma, Candice Mishkin, and Rosy Gautam. Each of these team members dedicated themselves to raising money and distributing the lights in person in Nepal.

Once in Khalte 4 DandaGaun, Iris Nepal’s focus was to help the people tear down homes with cables and pulleys and organize the rubble so that every last bit of it could be repurposed. There is no waste in a situation like this. Even nails were pulled out of wood and unbent, then put in a pile to be used for rebuilding. The kind of assistance that Iris gives is instrumental in helping these remote villagers move forward, both physically and mentally, because most believed they could never rebuild again. The emotional part of tearing your own home down was unfathomable to residents, despite the earthquake making the home unlivable, until Iris stepped in to help.

The WOL focus was on finding the neediest families to receive lights – not an easy task where every villager is without power and most are without homes. A meeting with all the village elders was organized and WOL explained that the focus of their efforts would be on the elderly, people with handicaps, midwives, families with a lot of young children, and teachers.

Two young men (pictured) Ranjan & Ananda wrote a letter to express their gratitude to Watts of Love about their experience. The letter read, “Solar light distribution program in Khalte vdc 4 Dhading was really wonderful. Nancy and Kevin are very helpful persons. Their ever-smiling appearance impresses everyone who happens to keep in touch with them. Watts of Love has proved itself as the friend of earthquake victims of Nepal. Thanks for your kind assistance in this critical situation caused by the devastating earthquake. I hope that your assistance will be continued and the amount will be increased for the needy people in future.” The letter was signed by Ananda Sigd. Receiving feedback like this is extra motivation to Nancy, Kevin and the team to continue their efforts to help bring light to as many people as possible.

Two young men (pictured) Ranjan & Ananda wrote a letter to express their gratitude to Watts of Love about their experience. The letter read, “Solar light distribution program in Khalte vdc 4 Dhading was really wonderful. Nancy and Kevin are very helpful persons. Their ever-smiling appearance impresses everyone who happens to keep in touch with them. Watts of Love has proved itself as the friend of earthquake victims of Nepal. Thanks for your kind assistance in this critical situation caused by the devastating earthquake. I hope that your assistance will be continued and the amount will be increased for the needy people in future.” The letter was signed by Ananda Sigd. Receiving feedback like this is extra motivation to Nancy, Kevin and the team to continue their efforts to help bring light to as many people as possible.

There are only so many supplies, however, and it’s heartbreaking to see the faces of the people whose names were not called. It’s shattering to tell them there aren’t enough lights for them.

Once the people received their lights, the universal response was disbelief that WOL had come all the way from the U.S. to help them. They were very reserved. Yet, when the team visited them in their homes and people were given a private opportunity to express their emotions, they showed complete euphoria.

In addition to disbelief, the people wondered if there was a catch and if something might be expected of them in return. From the start, to overcome this initial distrust, the team had to earn the trust of the elders. Asking the elders to determine who received the lights helped give credibility to the process.

 

The team trained villagers to use and care for their lights, introducing them to an entirely new form of technology. Push button technology and solar lighting is not common in this area and training is crucial to helping people successfully use it.

The team trained villagers to use and care for their lights, introducing them to an entirely new form of technology. Push button technology and solar lighting is not common in this area and training is crucial to helping people successfully use it.

As this man was being educated on how to use and care for his new solar headlamp, he kept smiling, laughing and shaking his head with happiness and disbelief. The moment Kevin went to take his photo, he dropped into a squatting position so he could straighten his back, lift his chin and proudly pose with his new light. Despite Kevin’s desire to photograph him as the world saw him, the man knew who he was and he wanted to be photographed as he has always seen himself – a man filled with dignity, pride, honor, and joy.

As this man was being educated on how to use and care for his new solar headlamp, he kept smiling, laughing and shaking his head with happiness and disbelief. The moment Kevin went to take his photo, he dropped into a squatting position so he could straighten his back, lift his chin and proudly pose with his new light. Despite Kevin’s desire to photograph him as the world saw him, the man knew who he was and he wanted to be photographed as he has always seen himself – a man filled with dignity, pride, honor, and joy.

As many as 4-5 million children suffered as a result of the typhoon, as estimated by Save the Children and the United Nations Children’s Fund. It is commonly recognized that children have suffered the most.

After speaking with local families, hearing their stories and sharing painful moments of silence and togetherness, Kuster selected potential light recipients based on their propensity to share their new solar tools with their neighbors in need.

Aside from struggling families, Watts of Love has gifted lights to numerous birthing centers, schools, churches and individuals who can use them to begin rebuilding their future, starting with a brighter tonight.

Once the people received their lights, the universal response was disbelief that WOL had come all the way from the U.S. to help them. They were very reserved. Yet, when the team visited them in their homes and people were given a private opportunity to express their emotions, they showed complete euphoria.

In addition to disbelief, the people wondered if there was a catch and if something might be expected of them in return. From the start, to overcome this initial distrust, the team had to earn the trust of the elders. Asking the elders to determine who received the lights helped give credibility to the process.

Another small way that paying it forward showed up was in the challenge of helping recipients understand why their photos were being taken. In order for them to be comfortable being photographed and to understand that they weren’t being exploited, Kevin showed them images of past recipients, whose photos were on the boxes containing the lights. He shared some success stories and explained the importance of sharing these photographs and videos to help raise money for more people who hadn’t yet received lights, but who desperately needed them. The immediate reaction from the villagers was to want to be photographed to help future recipients. The act of giving was infectious and they gave the only thing they could give.

At the end of the trip, WOL visited a leper colony to distribute solar headlamps. It’s important that people with leprosy can shine their light hands-free because they often have to change their bandages in the dark. Lepers are the absolute lowest in the caste system and are generally left in these colonies to die.

Nancy hugged, loved and ministered to people who were abandoned and have been starved of human contact for most of their lives. Although it was heart breaking at times, it was also truly amazing to see every person beam with delight when they were held. Everyone was eager to be recognized, acknowledged and touched. They each had wounds far more damaging and painful than their lost fingers, feet, legs, limbs, toes and eyes.

Sincere thanks to Iris Nepal, St. Dennis Church, and Soul City Church for helping Watts of Love care for and support the Nepalese people living through this natural disaster. WOL gives special thanks to Etihad Airlines, national airline of the United Arab Emirates, who generously allowed WOL to check bags to Nepal filled with solar lights and trip gear. 


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