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Locals Organize Quake Relief for Nepal

Two Laguna Beach women devoted to improving the lives of impoverished women and children in Nepal confront new fundraising hurdles in the wake of Saturday’s devastating earthquake.

Sarita in Wojethar house

Sarita in Wojethar house

Damage to the orphanage Chhahari that Christine Casey helped build for 25 poor children in Kathmandu forced the founder and the children to take shelter in the undamaged home of a board member in Nepal’s capital since Saturday.

Casey left Laguna in February on her annual five-month trip to Nepal. Through intermittent dispatches, she reported over the weekend that all are safe, but food and uncontaminated water is in short supply, said board member and local attorney Tom Davis.

Little is known about the circumstances in most of the 48 remote Nepali villages that local Rosalind Russell has populated with donated goats over the past decade. Roads are nearly impassable due to landslides.

Russell’s program manager and adopted son, Rabindra Sitaula, visited three villages. He reported that in the village of Wojethar, the dirt-floor, multi-generation brick homes of all 600 residents have disintegrated. In neighboring Baluwa, at least six people have died, and no aid has reached them, she said.

Wojethar in crumbles

Wojethar in crumbles

Only 58-student Top of the World School Nepal, which opened in 2009 with funds donated to Russell’s R Star Foundation, survived the quake, though it is likely damaged, she said. “We knew we had to protect the children,” said Russell. Situala oversaw the school’s construction to local building standards, ensuring it was reinforced with steel rebar and a cement foundation, she said.

Both Casey and Russell are temporarily suspending any expansion of their programs to fundraise for recovery efforts.

Chhahari’s supporters will sell handmade dumplings and plea for funds during an all-day international fair at Soka University in Aliso Viejo Saturday, May 2, said board member Barbara McMurray.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church will undertake fundraising for R Star Foundation, said Rev. Elizabeth Rechter. Because of R Star’s established relationships, donors can be assured funds will go directly to villages rather then diverted, she said.

Since Russell met Sitaula in 1988, she has relied on him to identify villages where R Star donors paid for goats, wells, and schools that affect 30,000 people. “They were doing magnificently,” she said.

Now, emergency supplies are needed to restore village life. “This is a desperate time,” said Russell, explaining that Situala will distribute funds to villages from R Star’s account in Nepal. “I know the difference that we make.”

Similarly, funds donated to Chhahari will go directly towards feeding and sheltering 25 kids, Davis said. All are either orphans or from very poor homes, he said.

The orphanage gets by on an annual budget of $33,000, with two adult caregivers and three part-time workers. A $25,000 grant from Impact Giving, a Laguna Beach giving circle, funded solar power for the home.

Backers intend to support the college and trade school dreams of 11 teens in the home, David said. “This catastrophy is going to have an impact,” he predicted. “Other needs may have to come first.”

Info: rstarfoundation.org. and chhahari.org.

Correction:

The article “Locals Organize Nepal Relief,” incorrectly reported the amount and use of grant funds by Impact Giving to Chhahari. The Nepal orphanage received $26,000 in two separate grants for solar power at the home and a nearby school and for education expenses.

 

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