In April this year, Kathmandu suffered its biggest earthquake in more than 80 years. Measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale it claimed an estimated 8,800 lives and injured countless others. In the wake of this devastation as a student of the CEMS Global Alliance at Ivey business school, I travelled to ground zero to help rebuild the local community.
I believe my education has played a large part in why I decided to get involved with the relief efforts in Kathmandu. CEMS is a global alliance of 29 leading business schools and universities which, by enabling students to travel between institutions, provides a Masters in Management programme with all the tools, experiences, and academic ability needed to tackle whichever global environment they may find themselves in. But beyond this it teaches the importance of understanding and interacting with the world around you. It was with these lessons in mind that I decided to travel to Nepal to join the relief efforts.
It was not my first trip to the country. Each CEMS student has a home university -- in my case Ivey Business School -- where they complete the first three semesters of the programme. In 2014 as part of Ivey's curriculum, I spent 10 weeks in India, during which I was encouraged to travel to Kathmandu with two fellow students to volunteer at an orphanage. OCEAN Nepal houses sixteen children, ranging from six to 18 years of age, and provides them with the education, care and, most importantly, the family they were so unfortunate to have not been blessed with from birth.
Volunteering was an incredible experience. Nepal is said to be a spiritual mecca and it's true. I found both the people and the surroundings to be a catalyst for positive energy, honesty and love for other people. It gave me more than I felt I could ever repay. A year later I got my chance to try. I was thinking of the kids at OCEAN as soon as I heard the news of the earthquake. After finishing my studies in Hong Kong I traveled straight to Nepal, back to Kathmandu and to OCEAN to help out in any capacity that I could.
And help was needed. Kathmandu's weak infrastructure had not been able to withstand an earthquake of that magnitude. In the week following the quake immediate relief efforts were made by locals and large organisations alike. Emergency distributions of rice ensured people could survive the first few days. A local told me that the first two days of distribution went smoothly, but as waiting times reached six to eight hours, frustrations built and fights broke out sporadically. The area was affected so badly that even if their homes were left standing, people had to move out of them due to the risk of collapse. Even now, two months later, many still live in tents as their homes are either inhabitable or have been completely destroyed.
At the orphanage, our focus has been on getting life back to normal as quickly as possible for the children. But it has been difficult. OCEAN has been relatively lucky through this ordeal. Their building is still standing, but many others aren't. The local school, Gyanamandir Secondary English School, lost three children in the quake and the building was made inhabitable.
As a short-term solution the schoolyard has been converted to serve as a temporary facility for teaching, and the school day has been cut short. Instead of classes running from 9:00 a.m. to 16:00 p.m., the children go home at around 13:00 p.m. A lack of resources meant education was, at first, limited to physical activities such as dancing and singing. There was no homework. Only now are things beginning to return to normal, but there is still a long way to go. Infrastructure needs to recover; homes and businesses need to be rebuilt. To do this, the people of Kathmandu will continue to need support from their neighbours and the wider world.
As a CEMS student, I have been fortunate to receive an education on global culture and etiquette, which has made those things that seem impossible -- like helping people outside of my own local sphere -- possible. To me, this is the true value of education. As the next generation, we should of course care about building great careers and futures for ourselves, but we must also realise that part of the premise of holding such privileged positions must be to use them to make a positive impact on other people's lives.
Part of the identity of CEMS is to build bridges, not just between students, educators and employers but between societies and cultures, to create real change for social good. Having studied and lived in Denmark, Canada, India and Hong Kong, and having experienced the love and hospitality of the Nepalese people I am convinced that anyone who has any connection to Nepal would have been thinking of the people and how to help them immediately after hearing about the disaster. They just need to know how to do so.
Raising awareness for any charity is a delicate undertaking. As an organiser you have to ask yourself "do the efforts we extend here meet the maximum potential impact on the lives of people in third world countries, or could they be put to better use somewhere else?" Of course, no charity will ever be able to meet all the objective standards of being "the best possible cause." This is one of many reasons why there is always a call for more aid, more volunteers and more helping hands so that there's a better chance of having enough to go round. As the next generation taking on these problems, we must all do our part in helping where we can.
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