By Robin Pierson, Special to the Independent
Since April, when a fearsome earthquake and subsequent aftershocks killed thousands and turned entire Nepali villages into rubble heaps, Laguna-based R Star Foundation has focused on getting the basics to survivors.
R Star’s man on the ground, Rabin Situala of Kathmandu, has worked tirelessly to procure and deliver emergency supplies – food, water, medicine and temporary housing – to mountain villages, some accessible only by foot due to quake induced landslides.
Situala and R Star’s founder, Rosalind Russell, know those villages and the people in the hard hit Kavre district of Nepal well. Over the past 12 years,
R Star has gifted 15,000 income-producing goats to impoverished women in 48 far flung villages, has provided the seed money for micro-financing projects helping women start businesses and has offered literacy classes and skill-specific trainings.
In Kavre, an estimated 70,600 homes were destroyed. Since the government is focused on rebuilding areas visited by tourists, non-government agencies and private citizens have stepped in to help rebuild village homes.
Immediately after the quake hit, Situala contacted local villagers to learn what was needed and began procuring supplies. Within three days, he was delivering food, temporary shelter and other materials, often before any other aid arrived, quickly depleting the non-profit’s emergency fund. With generous donations, including a $10,000 grant from the Lacewings Foundation, founded by Laguna’s own Mary Williams, Situala was able to continue delivering life-saving supplies, including mosquito netting for 32,000, to the devastated communities.
Situala continues to network with groups focused on home building, wooing resources hard-to-reach villages. As a result, new earthquake proof houses have been built in two of R Star’s poorest and most remote communities.
Twenty houses – with solar panels and indoor plumbing – have been built in Pahari. Located on a ridge top, with little farmable land, villagers survive by making brooms. Government permits and funds are in place to build 77 more at a cost of $5,600 each. In Wojethar, Situala’s boyhood home, where nearly all the houses were flattened, plans are underway to rebuild 150 homes. According to Russell, “We have a collaboration to build 300 homes in two of our other villages.”
And while Wojethar’s Top of the World School – Nepal, built by R Star, has reopened under tarps, money is needed to make repairs dictated by a structural engineer so that students can safely return to their classrooms.
To replenish R Star’s emergency relief and rebuilding fund, supporter Ileana Gulmesoff hosts a poolside benefit Sunday, Sept. 20, from 2-5 at her home, 17151 Greenleaf in Huntington Beach. Tea sandwiches, elegant desserts and music will be offered for a $10 donation.
Donations can also be made on line at www.RStarFoundation.org or by sending a check to R Star, PO Box 4183, Laguna Beach, CA 92652.
Writer Robin Pierson lives in town.