Bay Area aid group brings relief to Nepal for quake victims

SAUSALITO, Calif. (KGO) -- More than 10 months after a huge outpouring of donations for earthquake victims in Nepal, very little long-term aid has actually reached the people who need it most. But a Bay Area-based organization we've been following for years is bucking that trend with some remarkable success.

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It's been more than 10 months since a 7.8 earthquake rocked Nepal, killing 9,000 people and destroying more than 800,000 homes. The international community pledged billions of dollars in aid, but many quake victims still have not received any significant help.

The biggest obstacles have been created by politics inside Nepal, but a Bay Area-based aid group has still managed to help some of the poorest victims start rebuilding their lives.

The organization, called the Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF), was started 25 years ago by 90-year-old Olga Murray, a retired lawyer from Sausalito. We caught up with her as she was packing five giant duffle bags full of warm coats donated by Patagonia. Murray used her frequent flyer mileage to bring the coats to Nepal and hand them out to children in need.

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She says the winter has been brutal for quake victims who lost their homes.

"You can imagine, your house is destroyed," said Murray. "It's rubble. You are living in a tent and it's zero degrees. It's such a terrible situation."

To make matters worse, a political battle over a new Nepali constitution led to a trade blockade that lasted five months. That meant almost no oil, medicine, or building supplies were getting into the country.

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"The economic damage from the blockade is worse than from the earthquake" according to Murray.

NYF'S long history of work in Nepal helped the organization act quickly in some villages hit hardest by the earthquake. The reconstruction started before the trade blockade cut off supplies. Murray explained "local knowledge is everything."

NYF supporters from England traveled to Nepal to make a film showing the progress in a village called Sindhupalchok that was completely leveled by the earthquake. The seven minute documentary is called "The Shaken Nation."

It shows how NYF is supporting families and training local villagers in construction. The villagers are building seismically safe schools and homes. Murray hopes they will use those skills to get jobs.

"In a country with 46 percent unemployment this is important because construction skills will be in demand for a long time to come," she said.

Other NYF programs to help quake survivors include children's shelters in the villages, community kitchens, and classes on how to cook nutritious food with locally available ingredients.

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Now that the blockade is over, building is back in full swing, but prices are up. NYF has built 50 classrooms so far and is hoping to raise enough money for 250 schoolrooms by the end of the year. NYF reports its earthquake relief efforts have now assisted more than 80,000 people in various ways.

If you'd like to learn more or help the Nepal Youth Foundation, click here.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney.
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