Take one global pandemic, add a lockdown in Nepal, take away tourism generated income or daily wage earning capacity, add a food crisis for hungry families, mix in an international group of women with a passion for Nepal, bring it all together with a Nepali NGO and what do you get ?
You get the #foodfornepal (brought to you by Let’s Clean Up Nepal) fundraising campaign, aimed at raising money for emergency food relief for families in rural areas of Nepal as well as the Kathmandu Valley.
Brought together by our mutual friend, Raj from Let’s Clean Up Nepal, the international team from all over the world: Australia, France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland – acted on our common vision to help protect the beauty of the Nepalese mountains and support communities to live an autonomous life in dignity. Whilst sustainability and the aim for long term solutions is the ultimate goal, we recognized that there was an immediate crisis with lack of income and food for many people, and we all wished to help those families survive such a difficult time.
Myself (Lou), Christine, Marie, Lisa, Annemarie, Alize and Caroline quickly bonded over messages and a Zoom call and set about identifying the objectives and logistics involved.
Within days we had a campaign up and running and a payment portal ready to accept donations in multiple currencies. We had the initial aim of raising 3000 USD (3000 Euro/ 4700 AUD) as that would provide an emergency food package for 100 families. Each food package consisted of rice, potato, flour, salt, soy bean, oil, beaten rice, lentils, tea, sugar, and hand washing soap.
Launch day arrived. We promoted the campaign on social media, told friends about it and each started an email blitz to friends and associates. We then waited with baited breath to see if we would reach our financial target. The immediate response was amazing. Through our generous donors we reached our target within 24 hours. The fundraising team were all so thrilled and we discussed upping our target to aim for an additional 50 families, bringing the total to 150 families. I updated the online campaign and we reached our new target within another 24 hours. Thrilled with the success so far, we decided not to keep changing the target, but just see what total we would reach over the 7 day campaign.
At the end of the campaign we were blown away to see that we had raised $9174 AUD. Based on figures provided by Raj we realized this would provide food packages for at least 200 families.
With the fundraising component of the campaign a success, thanks to our amazing donors, it was then up to me to get the money to the LCUN bank account in Nepal. We hit a bit of a roadblock here with my Australian bank refusing to transfer the money, and international transfer companies (I won’t mention names!) blocking me saying they could not transfer to a charity, only for family assistance, as they could not rule out money laundering or fraud! Seriously! After days of trying to sort this out, and feeling more and more sick with every hour that passed, I was finally able to transfer some money to Christine and some to my mum, who both had success transferring it into LCUN’s bank account. I was so relieved that the money finally got to Nepal (thank you Christine and mum). Christine also received more donations after the campaign ended and transferred that money as well.
Now Raj’s difficult task began. He coordinated purchase of the food items, transport by truck to the destination villages, communicated with village leaders to identify those families in need, worked with local leaders and police to maintain a safe distribution schedule, and coordinated volunteers to assist with the distribution. At all times during the distribution everyone, volunteers and recipients, were counseled to practice social distancing, wash their hands, wear masks and gloves; as well as use their own bags to carry their food rather than rely on single use plastic bags. During the campaigns the LCUN volunteers took the opportunity to educate locals on how to keep safe from Covid-19, and also how to look after the environment and reduce or recycle single use plastics so they did not become a rubbish burden on the community.
Over the course of two months Raj and the LCUN team were able to visit villages and communities and help en masse, as well as help individual families. They were very careful identifying those most in need, who ranged from the elderly, the disabled, families with no source of income, single parent families and families with many young children. Raj would share stories about some of the people in his reports back to the fundraising team, and we all shed a tear on occasion, hearing of such hardship being endured, and fears they faced. But then we were all thrilled that LCUN was able to help due to our fundraising.
By the end of the distribution of all the food packages, thanks to Raj’s skills in negotiating better prices when purchasing the food, he was able to stretch out the total money donated to help 311 families. This is a fantastic achievement by Raj and the LCUN team to deliver all the food to those 311 families in a safe way. We know they faced difficulties with permits and traveling through the lockdown period and we greatly admire their planning and determination to deliver the food as promised.
I want to thank Christine, Marie, Lisa, Annemarie, Caroline, and Alize for their collective hardwork at creating and promoting this campaign, and most importantly reaching out to donors. We also thank all the donors for their generous donations. They put their faith in us and kindly donated towards an amazing total that exceeded our expectations.
Finally I want to thank Raj for all his hard work. From our connections with him he brought us together to join forces for fundraising. He was then able to engage other LCUN volunteers to assist in the distribution. Thank you to Amrita, Sara, Sonam, Gita, Teklal, Ramchadra, Pravin and Dikshya. Raj’s compassion towards those in need is heartwarming and his determination to see this food campaign come to a successful close makes me feel so humble, yet thankful. The world is a better place because of people like Raj.
To read more about the villages and individuals that benefited from the food packages, I will soon add another story and include the link here. Please stay tuned.