Nepal 2014 Earthquake

I spend a lot of time in Nepal. In fact, I help the government manage foreign aid, among other things. And I have a lot of good friends there who are sleeping in the street tonight, still worried about venturing indoors. It breaks my heart – all of ours.

Most of us would do anything to help. Reading articles and worrying from our couches doesn’t feel like much of a contribution. And if we’re honest, even donations can feel like a bit of a cop-out (they’re not, though). So what can we do to really help?

I work in foreign aid. I spent a lot of time in Haiti in the years following the earthquake there in 2010. So I should have a brilliant answer on what to do in Nepal, right?. But I don’t. Honestly there’s not much most of us can do in a situation like this. For the most part, we pray, we watch, and we hope things will get better quickly.

However, at the same time, while even though I lack a panacea for the situation, there are a few things we can do – or at least a few things to keep in mind when disasters like this happen. For what they’re worth, here are four thoughts for fellow Saints who are trying to figure out how to do something more:

1. Donate well

Donations aren’t a cop-out – they support organizations that help a lot of needy people. It’s always tough to decide who should get your money, but plenty has been written about where you can donate (see here also), so I’ll spare you my pontification. My money so far has gone to the GlobalGiving relief fund, because they dole out funds to a diverse portfolio of vetted local and international groups. Do some reading and figure out which organization feels right to you. Look for groups that have experience in Nepal, specialize in disaster relief, and work through local partners. Giving matters, and a lot of organizations will need serious funding to help thousands of people in the months to come. I think the Lord expects us to give until it hurts a little bit. Just give in the way that hurts right for you.

2. Stay out of the way

Don’t go to Nepal or any disaster area immediately after the fact. Really, don’t even think about it. I know you mean well, but you’ll be in the way, I promise. Maybe in a year – maybe. But right now, resources need to go to the people who need them – not to unskilled (or even skilled) volunteers. Leave it to a handful of professionals, and leave it to the many good people in Nepal who are working night and day to help themselves and each other. The Church isn’t sending foreign volunteers in either. Voluntourism has its place, and at some point, if it feels right, Nepal may be a good destination for that. But not for a while. Send your resources to help the local groups and international organizations that have done this before.

3. Don’t forget

Pretty soon, most of the world will forget that a terrible earthquake happened in Nepal. It’s just how life is. Be the one who doesn’t forget. Months from now, thousands of people will still be living in tents. A year from now, hundreds of people will still be trying to rebuild their homes and lives. Do you think all is back to normal in Haiti five years later? It’s not. Remember Nepal when the reporters have moved on to new stories. Donate to a scrappy local group a year from now that is working in anonymity to help rebuild a village. I think those who remember will be blessed with many opportunities to help in the future.

There’s also another, often-overlooked side to donating and remembering: accountability. Relief funds don’t always go where they’re supposed to go, as the world learned from the Haiti reconstruction effort. In the months to come, be someone who pays attention, reads obscure articles, and signs petitions that can help make sure that aid money is used responsibly. Consider supporting groups that focus on transparency and accountability, as well.

4. Look around

Elder Holland, in his masterful sermon last October, said it best:

“I don’t know exactly how each of you should fulfill your obligation to those who … cannot always help themselves. But I know that God knows, and He will help you and guide you in compassionate acts of discipleship if you are conscientiously wanting and praying and looking for ways to keep a commandment He has given us again and again.”

I know that the Lord gives us opportunities to help the needy when that’s what we want. I also know, though, that the poor and needy are “always with us,” as the Lord Himself said. Maybe there’s not much you and I can do for Nepal right now – but there are some things we can do. But even more, I know there are people all around us that we can do something for, right now – and maybe, when disasters happen across the world, we should also be reminded of the many needs that are right in front of us. So let’s pray, let’s donate, let’s pay attention, and let’s go and do something for someone today.