When Britons Richard Jones and James Watson decided to go to Nepal on a trek earlier this year they knew it would be an adventure, little did they know that the experience would change the trajectory of their lives. The tourists stayed on in Nepal to provide emergency relief, and now want to combine their love for photography into a book of images of Nepal to raise money for long-term rehabilitation.
Jones had been to Nepal 16 years ago for a trek with his high school, a trip that infected him with the travel bug. He had always wanted to come back to Nepal, drawn by the people and the mountains.
Watson is a photographer and was on his way to Everest Base Camp when the Earthquake hit. Jones was in the Annapurnas. When they got back to Kathmandu with South African friend Gareth Pickering, they decided not to go home and stay on to help with earthquake relief.
First they helped host families in Sukedhara to clear the rubble of their destroyed homes, they would meet Nepalis by chance on the streets of Thamel who would tell them about devastated villages up in the mountains, and would pack supplies in a truck and head off the next morning.
“None of us wanted to leave,” Watson said, “we felt it was our responsibility to stay and help a country and people that had given so much to us.”
The three were a rare breed, Thamel was teeming with tourists waiting for the limited tickets available on flights out in the weeks after 25 April. By now, they have cancelled their tickets three times, and extended their visas twice. “It hasn’t been cheap,” grins Watson.
They may be just three friends who have got together to help Nepal in its hour of need, but through social networking sites they have managed to raise funds from friends, and friends of friends, all over the world. One Facebook appeal got them $25,000 which they are ploughing into the neediest, remotest villages.
The need of every village is different. Some need tents, some are desperate for food, others require tin roofs and building tools like saws, shovels and hammers. Many just need help to clear the rubble. Through their Nepali friends and people they met, they found out about a village in Sindhupalchok where people in a shelter had no food. They immediately bought thirty 30kg sacks of rice, loaded it onto a truck and set off. While in that village they heard of one that needed medicines and shelter, so they rushed back to Kathmandu to buy those items and delivered them the next day.
HELPING HANDS: James Watson, Gareth Pickering and Richard Jones came to trek in Nepal, but decided to stay on to help in the earthquake relief work (above).
“It has been incredible to see how people from all over the world are working together across boundaries, no one is competing for credit,” said Pickering.
Although the effort has been ad hoc, it is among hundreds of examples of Nepali and foreign individuals who have joined hands to help. For example, when they saw the overwhelming need for shelter in the villages they visited the trio ordered 370 tarps, and spent the next four days trying to get it out of customs. The very next day, 200 tarps were dispatched to Dolakha, and 50 went to the village of a trekking guide they had met where many homes had been destroyed.
“It may be a drop in the ocean, but we are trying to make an impact with every dollar we get,” said Watson, who has been brain-storming with his friends about what they can do for Nepal in the long-term.
Since the three have bonded out of their love for photography, they have come up with the idea of bringing out a picture book on Nepal to be published and sold worldwide. Images from the earthquake will depict the tragedy, but also the generosity and resilience of the Nepali people, and also include thelandscape and portraits of Nepalis.
Said Watson: “We have seen some great pictures by Nepali photographers, and we encourage them to send in their images and we will pick the best to be included in the book." All proceeds from the sale of the photobook will go to support long-term reconstruction and rehabilitation of the earthquake-ravaged districts.
Find details on how to submit photographs for inclusion in the book here.
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