April 25, 2017 marks the two-year anniversary of the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal. As the country continues to rebuild, we’d like to take a minute to recognize the communities across Nepal and the 12 Hilton Prize Laureates working in country – BRAC, Clubhouse International, ECPAT, Handicap International, Heifer International, HelpAge International, IRC, IRCT, MSF, Operation Smile, Partners in Health and SOS Children’s Villages.
This earthquake in Nepal and the ongoing efforts to rebuild were the focus of the Hilton Prize Coalition’s first production under the Storytelling Program. Below is a recap of some of the stories from the past year that have helped us think about effective approaches to disaster preparation, as well as some updates on the work being done today.
FILM: On Shifting Ground
The pilot project highlighted six member organizations that were among those who mobilized in response to the earthquake: BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, HelpAge International, Operation Smile and SOS Children’s Villages. The resulting film, “On Shifting Ground,” has been shown around the world to initiate dialogue around rethinking approaches to disaster response and ways to build community resiliency. Click here to view the film.
Through the production of the film, the organizations gained greater familiarity with one another’s capacities in the region and formed a framework for collaboration that continues to this day. In March 2017, more than 10 organizations met in Kathmandu to establish protocols, building on the lessons learned and their collective experiences in the sector. Read more in this blog post by the Coalition’s Collaboration Coordinator in Nepal, Sumnina Shrestha.
BLOG SERIES: Voices from Nepal
Director Steve Connors, along with members of Storytelling crew, shared insights about their experiences during the February 2016 filming process and beyond, highlighting especially the collaborations that have since taken root.
• Part 1: Reminders, by Steve Connors
• Part 2: Bringing Together a Wonderful Crew, by Steve Connors
• Part 3: This Humanitarian Spirit, by Steve Connors
• Part 4: The Beauty of Our Journey, by Rasmi Dangol
• Part 5: Returning to Normal, by Amul Thapa
• Part 6: A Brighter Future, by Amul Thapa
• Part 7: Learning to Be a Child, by Amul Thapa
• Part 8: A Ray of Hope, by Sunil Pokhrel
We were also pleased to learn about BRAC’s ELA program in Nepal that is empowering girls today, in this blog post written by Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow Sheetal Tuladhar.
VIDEOS: Leading Thoughts
Hilton Prize Laureate organizations recognize how critical preparation and collaboration between organizations are to effective disaster preparation. Here are two clips from the “Leading Thoughts’ series that address how these played out in Nepal. Click on the links or watch them on the Story Wall.
Sumnima Shrestha is the Communication and Resource Mobilization Manager with Heifer International – Nepal. She currently serves as Collaboration Coordinator for the Hilton Prize Coalition in Nepal. Sumnima holds more than 9 years of experience in the development sector, especially in advocacy, networking and resource mobilization, program development, project management, community empowerment and entrepreneurship. Here, Sumnima reflects on the Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning (DPRP) workshop held on March 2-3, 2017 in Kathmandu.
Hilton Laureates in Nepal Join Hands for Disaster Preparedness and Response
by Sumnima Shrestha
Getting different organizations and people together on one platform, and building a common understanding among them is a challenging part of any coalition. The Hilton Prize Coalition in Nepal is unique in itself. Coalition member organizations are working in diverse sectors with varied missions ranging from income and food security to disability and health. They have fascinating stories of their own, their interests are different, and above all, they are busy. When I became Collaboration Coordinator under the Coalition’s Collaborative Models Program, I had to overcome the challenge of making myself and others motivated and comfortable. I took this as an opportunity and met with each of the members, learned about their interests and worked to define one common goal to achieve greater collective impact for the world’s most vulnerable people.
The Hilton Prize Coalition in Nepal first came together under the 2016 Storytelling Program and included BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, Help Age International, Operation Smile and SOS Children’s Villages. Similarly, there are Hilton Laureates – Clubhouse International, ECPAT, the IRCT, Landesa, and PATH – working in Nepal with their local partners whose proactive participation has added tremendous value to the Coalition.
A common footprint manifested by each of the Coalition members was their involvement in relief and response activities during the April 2015 Nepal mega-earthquake. Though disaster relief is not the primary mission of all of these organizations, they moved out of their comfort zones and brought extraordinary results towards relief and recovery, benefiting thousands of people. Based on the lessons learned by the members and their interest to rise up during humanitarian crises, the need of a joint plan for future disaster preparedness and response was realized. A workshop on “Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning (DPRP)” was designed with objectives to understand disaster preparedness and emergency response as an integral part of development, and to develop joint response plans for working together in future natural disasters.
A total of 18 participants from 10 Coalition member organizations attended the workshop March 2-3, 2017 in Kathmandu. The theoretical sessions built capacity of the participants on disaster management cycles, preparedness and response, a vulnerability assessment tool for preparedness, and linkages with development interventions they are currently implementing. Phanindra Adhikari from CVICT, an IRCT member organization, described the event as “a wonderful experience. I had opportunity to gain knowledge as well as share my learning.”
The sessions were enriched by stories and experience-sharing of the participants. Said Sheetal Tuladhar of BRAC, “Sharing experiences of participating organizations was the most valuable part of this workshop…being a beginner in the development and humanitarian sectors, it was especially valuable to learn these concepts and match them with organizational experiences.” Moreover, the group discussion on institutional mechanisms of disaster preparedness was eye-opening to the participants. The workshop focused on developing objectives of joint disaster preparedness and concluded with an official response plan of the Coalition. A task force comprising of BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, and SOS Children’s Villages was formed for completing this plan.
The 2-day workshop with networking and team-building activities helped to strengthen these formal and informal connections, as well as personal relationships among Coalition members. One of the participants commented, “This workshop provided a platform for networking with such good organizations and I also got to learn more about them. This helped me for future collaborations, and I will definitely work towards it.”
Without a doubt, this workshop helped to establish unity in diversity. The beauty of this Coalition is that there is no competition between its members. Each are working in individual themes that are not overlapping with each other; integrating these themes results in holistic development. The Storytelling Program pilot advanced this collaboration and I am happy to be a part of this journey.
(Group photo of workshop participants)
Mr. Sunil Pokhrel is currently the Senior Injury & Rehabilitation Officer and Physiotherapist with Handicap International Nepal. He is responsible for injury management, early detection, health promotion and rehabilitation and assistive device services. Sunil is featured in the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program documentary “On Shifting Ground,” sharing the work of Handicap International Nepal before, during and after the 2015 Nepal earthquake. In this piece, he highlights the importance of rehabilitation services and the different collaborations that have occurred across the country since the disaster.
A Ray of Hope
by Sunil Pokhrel
In April 2015, I had been looking forward to presenting for the first time at the largest international gathering of physical therapists, the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT) conference, but I canceled my participation. The event was to be held in Singapore just eight days after the earthquake that shook the foundation of my country. I still remember the moment when I faced the dilemma of whether to fly to the event or to be in Nepal and support the country, which had been reduced to rubble. A voice within me directed me to stay and help the 23,000 injured, to be a ray of hope to the broken.
The earthquake was one of the biggest disasters in the history of Nepal. Local, national and international organizations lent their helping hands to respond together. My decision to stay was influenced by the individuals and organizations that have shaped me as a humanitarian working to strengthen my community. Handicap International Nepal has always prioritized preparedness for unexpected disasters, and this work helped to set the tone for the response from the first day. Sarah Blin, the Country Director at the time, provided sound leadership that was instrumental in allowing the organization to respond to the overwhelming demand of injury management and rehabilitation. I was also inspired by SOS Children’s Villages Surkhet – Nepal, the place where I studied from nursery school to 10th grade; it is my second home that inculcated the humanitarian spirit in me right from childhood.
When the earthquake happened, I was immediately sent to work at the largest government teaching hospital, and I still remember those initial heart-wrenching moments. There was limited space and limited resources to respond to the high need to save people’s lives. My role at the hospital was to support the existing medical team, transferring them safely from ambulances to triage zones; to triage injured survivors, bracing the injured parts on the first initial days. Later on, I was tasked to teach exercises, provide assistive devices (crutches, canes, wheelchairs and braces) after proper assessment and user training and to educate the patients and their family members about the need for follow-up rehabilitation.
In Nepal, rehabilitation services are not fully integrated into the healthcare system, but this is a very important part of healthcare, linked with minimizing the complications and preventing the disabling effect of the injury. Demand for rehabilitation exponentially rises in post-disaster scenarios like earthquakes. Working in post-disaster scenarios is especially difficult because the survivors are experiencing psychological trauma as well as physical injuries.
After the earthquake, I was based at the same hospital for almost three months, directly providing services and also supervising the emergency rehabilitation physical therapists recruited later by Handicap International. I met more than 1,000 injured survivors and family members during that time. Most of them came from remote areas in Nepal where rehabilitation services were not available. During the initial days, it was very difficult to convince patients and their family members to get actively engaged in the rehabilitation process as they were in psychological stress due to injury, loss of family members and property. One main focus at that time was to listen, to explain, with examples, the stories of people with disabilities who have succeeded in life. This practice helped to make the exercises and rehabilitation process easier and participative.
Without the patient’s active involvement, rehabilitation is not effective. One woman with a single leg amputation was in deep distress and was not cooperating during the rehabilitation process despite several attempts by our team. We had an idea to facilitate interactions with Ramesh, a boy with a double limb amputation whom we had trained to use a wheelchair. Ramesh explained to her how rehabilitation had helped him, and this was the turning point for the woman to agree to participate in her own rehabilitation process. Not long after that, one of the most unforgettable incidents occurred during the second earthquake on May 12, 2015, when Ramesh transferred himself from his bed to his wheelchair and was able to secure himself in the safe zone downstairs due to the training we had given him just a few days back. I still remember him expressing, with his eyes full of tears, “I would have gone into shock if I didn’t have the wheelchair and the ability to use it to get to safety.” This made me more dedicated and proud, because I felt the immediate impact of my work on the ground.
(Sunil Pokhrel – right – assists a patient during a physiotherapy session)
(Sunil Pokhrel – right – assists a patient during a physiotherapy session)
© HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL
Today, more than a year after the earthquake, many Nepalese still live with the nightmare of the catastrophic disaster. Through Handicap International, I support physiotherapists based at six earthquake-affected districts. After seeing a gradual decline of patients in Kathmandu hospitals, our focus shifted to the homes of survivors to ensure follow-up care. Rehabilitation requires time, and therefore continuum of care is very important. Rehabilitation units in these districts are providing follow-up care in close collaboration with the Nepalese government through the support of organizations like DFID and USAID.
Though the earthquake was catastrophic in terms of loss of life and property, it provided solid evidence on the importance and relevancy of rehabilitation services in Nepal’s healthcare system. Currently the government of Nepal is working to define long-term strategies and plans for healthcare. Together with HelpAge International, we at Handicap International are providing the technical back up on this work so that health and rehabilitation issues of people with injury/disability and senior citizens are well addressed.
I do not have any regrets on losing an opportunity to present an abstract paper at my first international conference. More opportunities will arise. In fact, I have been selected as a speaker on the symposium titled Physiotherapy in Disasters in July 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa, during which I am going to share my experiences and lessons learned from my involvement after Nepal’s earthquake with the world.
(Sunil Pokhrel with a patient in Nepal)
© HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL