Monday, June 08, 2015

Field Report: Nepal Earthquake Relief, May 2015

As we approached the airport in Kathmandu, after many hours of travel through London and Delhi, I had two impressions: (1) Why was there pallets of what appeared to be aid stacked on the side of the airport, and (2) the city was still standing- maybe the devastation was not so bad…. My first impression unfortunately was based upon reality. We were advised that much well intended aid had not yet made it out of customs to assist the earthquake victims.

Tragically, I found out over the next few days, that my second impression of the city was only a glimpse of a few areas that were not that badly damaged.  My co-KIRF volunteer and fellow Rotarian, Steve, and I came to realize that the devastation to Kathmandu and Nepal is immense, affecting most of the city and the countryside in the region.

The earthquake’s massive destruction became apparent on the first day of assessment work, when I went for an early morning jet-lagged run through the Pashupantinath Shiva Temple next to the Hotel Indreni where we are staying. Sadly, like many of the older structures throughout the Country, it had suffered severe damage from the earthquake.

The night before we had a meeting with people from the local Rotary Club of Bagmati, such as the charismatic Akhil, and a member of the Kathmandu Lions club, Anoj (our lead contact, and brother of the very generous supporter of this trip-Anup, the owner of our local Ventura restaurant Himalaya).   We decided at that meeting that their Rotary Club past president (who turned out to be a very kind and generous man in is how measure for the local community- assisting the poor with education and micro finance for local women) Bidur would be our guide to help us assess some rural hill villages about 2 ½ hours outside of Kathmandu.

The next day, Friday, May 15, Bidur drove us, and another Bagmati Rotarian, Bijay, on dirt roads through the steep hillsides and sub-tropical forest area just outside of Kathmandu, using four wheel drive to access the villages. After several hours of driving, we stopped on the side of a hill because a slide had blocked the road.  This is where we met Mr. Shakya who told us that most of the 55 houses in the village of Hille were destroyed by the quake.

In Hille we walked through the village, meeting families and talking with the men and women who had suffered great losses as we assessed the damage and found out what they needed. Next we traveled to another village nearby named Kharse where 50 houses had been severely damaged.

Again, through our local interpreter we spoke with the men and women of the village and then, after being offered tea, we discussed their roofing material needs.



















From these assessments speaking with the earthquake survivors, we learned that they did not need food, clothes or water. Unanimously they told us they needed shelter: the monsoons were only six weeks away. (!)  We discussed their needs with them and they told us that they could reuse some of the materials from the destroyed houses, and acquire wood from the forests if needed.  However, they desperately needed building materials for roofs.  They decided that the most economical and safest shelters they could rebuild would be one story homes with wood walls and zinc (corrugated sheet metal) roofing.  Each new home would take about six days to build. Each house needed 12 sheets of 12’ x 3.5 feet zinc or two bundles of zinc which are sold locally in groups of six sheets.  We determined that they needed more hammers, tin snips and nails to build the structures.

The photos below are of one such structure that one of the elders built after the earthquake in Hille village.












We decided that we had enough donated funds to purchase enough zinc to rebuild the roofs in the villages of Hille and Kharse, or a total of 105 homes.

The next day, May 16, we traveled to what we were told was the low cast community of the Putuwar family which lives in Ichngo.  As I have seen on many previous trips, it is often the urban poor who suffer the most from disasters because of the do not have access to food as the day labor jobs cease. This was especially true in Nepal with back to back major earthquakes. Over half the city population had left Kathmandu after the second quake because safty fears and to be with their families in the country.

Ichango had about 100 homes, 68 were totally destroyed.

According to the people of Ichango , the best aid that we could provide them was enough rice and soy protein to sustain one family for a week and some waterproof tarps for temporary shelter. This area was very close to a government station and we were told that the residents hoped that they would be able to secure the badly needed zinc through their government representative (who helped us assess needs in the  bottom right picture).

Later that day we visited the village of Champi, about an hour drive from Kathmandu.  In this area, the local wildlife and the villagers routinely come into conflict in tragic ways. We were told that about four people per year are killed by leopards or tigers.


In this village I was able to interview a man (lower picture to the left, he standing to the far right of photo) who was 94 years old.  He told me that he was living when the last big quake hit Nepal approximatly 84 years ago.  He told me that the the houses were only one-story then and less lives were lost due to falling walls. A story that many Nepalese repeated to me.  I also heard from local people that the death toll  of the current earthquake disaster was well over 10,000 people, with many people tragically still missing underneath the rubble.   In the photo below the man to the left is pointing to where the sister of other man, standing to the right, was killed. He is still wearing his white mourning clothes.
















Yet, there is still much hope for the children.















The next few days were spent negotiating prices for rice, soy protein, zinc, nails and tools.


















We then delivered the rice and soy protein to the village of Ichngo. The Bagmati Rotarians and Roteracts delivered the zinc to the villages later after some serious on-site negotiations regarding distribution!











Many thank  you's  to all who helped and partnered with KIRF to make this Nepal relief trip a success!

Mark

P. Mark Kirwin, Esq.
Founder, President KIRF

Thursday, November 13, 2014

School Report from the Kirwin James International School: A Good Harvest

The Kirwin James International School is doing great!

As the Fall season is upon us here in the United States, it is always a healthy mental exercise to be reminded of how much we have to be thankful for. And, it is also important to recall how our good deeds have helped others. I call that having a "Good Harvest" as in the adage "you reap what you sow."

Even small things done with love can make a huge impact in another person's life: a few words of support to a friend, a smile of encouragement to a young student, a small online donation to a cause you feel is worthy, or  a forgiveness of a small debt. Each small deed, each good act that helps another, adds up to a Good Harvest.

Below are a few examples of our donor's Good Harvest this Fall with their support of KIRF's "KIRF India Project." The KIRF India Project helps support the educational and health care programs that are free for local families in need at the Kirwin James International School in rural Bihar, India.

We are grateful to each donor of KIRF's "KIRF India Project."

The KIRF India Project is currently helping provide a high quality academic education for nearly a 100  rural kids who live in villages without electricity or indoor plumbing near Bodhgaya, India. Without donor support of the Kirwin James International School these kids would not have access to a superior  Indian-standards based academic education. And, they especially would not be getting it for free. 

Please read on for a brief report from the school's on-site administrator in India:

Our School is running very well.
The big festival season is over now.
About 90 to 95 students are coming everyday.
They are coming to the school regularly and studying very hard and carefully. They are all local rural village students who understand the importance of education.
Many have gone to the local government school as well as our KIRF school. Some younger students said that our school education is better.
Each of our four teachers work very hard and enjoy teaching our students carefully and heartily.

Snacks - Students get snacks everyday in lunch time. Some of them experience food insecurity regularly so the food is received with gratitude.

Sweaters - Winter session is started here. We distributed the donated sweaters to 95 students. They are very happy to get their new sweaters.
They give thanks to all of the donors who are continuing their generous support of our school.
We all are very grateful to all of you.

From an earlier report:

Our sewing center is running very well. About 25 to 30 girls come every day.
Some new girls are also coming after the Fall admission in their sewing class.
Some older girls have since been married and they are no longer coming. Their lives are with their husband's families. But they are still sewing at their in-laws and are earning money according to their families' reports.
Thanking You,
       Taj**


In addition, the local wells built by KIRF, a crucial source of water for many rural families in nearby villages, are being maintained regularly and are in working order per our last "well report". 

The school's Sewing Centre vocational training program for young and married women is going strong with the new sewing machines purchased this year and supplies and excellent sewing instructor. 

Local families are still able to get health assessments and basic care on the weekend's at the school's on-site Health Clinic.

From all of us at KIRF...

Thank you and Namaste,

Angela R. Kirwin
Co-Founder
Kirwin International Relief Foundation

Scroll down to see more recent photos taken at the Kirwin James International School:

























**We received the above school report from the administrator of the Kirwin James International School on November 13, 2014. It was edited for brevity by KIRF's Co-Founder, Angela R. Kirwin.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

KIRF awarded Red Cross Hero and Good Samariton awards for local community-led volunteer disaster relief

Mark and Angela Kirwin receiving the Red Cross Hero and
Good Samaritan awards on behalf of KIRF and its
disaster relief volunteers.
On April 30, 2014 we were honored to receive the Good Samaritan Heroes award from the American Red Cross for our years of volunteer disaster relief and support of educational programs for children in need. 

We also received Good Samaritan awards from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors; U.S. Congresswoman, Julia Brownley; California State Senator, Hannah-Beth Jackson; and, California State Assembly members Jeff Gorell and Das Willams. 

Mark and I received these awards on behalf of the volunteers and donors of the non-profit charity that we founded, the Kirwin International Relief Foundation (KIRF). We founded this 100% volunteer, donor-supported, and disaster survivor needs-directed charity after our lives were spared in the Andaman Sea tsunami disaster of 2004. After helping other survivors get aid during the tsunami disaster we realized being in a natural disaster is an awful experience but also that anyone can make difference if they wanted to. We realized that even a small thing like helping someone get connected with a family member overseas, or connecting them with a local leader who can get them food and water, or a roof over their heads, or building materials so they can re-build their fish farm, or a school scholarship for a little boy or girl orphaned by the disaster... can literally change a life and, sometimes, save a life.


By working with locally respected community leaders in a disaster zone,  assessing needs with them, and delivering aid with their help, we have proven repeatedly the value of the bottom-up, community-led disaster relief approach for Stage II disaster relief (also known as "disaster recovery"). The long process of disaster recovery occurs after the aid organizations and first responders are gone and it is up to the neighbors, local business owners, farmers, educators, health workers, spiritual leaders, and local secular leaders--the local people--  to work together to re-build.  KIRF volunteers work with these local leaders for a sustainable relief that strengthens communities.


We received these awards but they honor the efforts of every volunteer and supporter of KIRF's global network of local leaders and altruistic volunteers who help relieve suffering and help others have a better future.  

One of my favorite quotes is this:

“We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place--or not to bother."

It's by Jane Goodall, DBE and I take it as an inspiration and a challenge.

Thank you, Salamat, Gracias, M├Ęsi, Karpkhun Kah, Asante sana, Arohanui, and Namaste,  

Angela R. Kirwin, MA
Co-Founder of KIRF

Friday, January 17, 2014

Field Report: Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Disaster Relief in the Philippines

A girl with her census of families who lost their
homes and people missing after Typhoon Haiyan
Photo: Mark Kirwin
Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013.  We watched its approach via the internet, fearing for the people of the Philippines as the super storm created 150 mile an hour plus winds and pushed huge waves towards the islands.  Unfortunately, although people were told to evacuate, many did not because they did not understand the severity of damage that this violent typhoon would bring.  They did not know that the storm surge would send tsunami-sized waves crashing through the coastal communities destroying everything in their path.  Many died and many more lost their homes and livelihoods as a result.

On December 11, 2013, KIRF’s founder and President, Mark Kirwin, landed in Iloilo, on the island of Panay in the Philippines with fellow volunteer, Dr. Thomas Fiutak, to make an assessment of the typhoon disaster and provide relief to its victims.  This island was directly in the path of Typhoon Haiyan and coastal communities on the windward side of the island suffered catastrophic damage. Mark is also a member of the Rotary Club of Ventura.  Ventura Rotary’s financial assistance made this trip possible.  In addition, KIRF received aid from the Filipino community in Minnesota.  We would not have been able to run such a effective relief trip without the invaluable assistance of Dr. Ted Robles, his wife Angel and other wonderful volunteers and alumni from the Central Philippine University (CPU) in Iloilo.

With transportation and interpretation kindly provided by CPU, KIRF was able to assess damage and assistance needs for two communities in the Province of Iloilo, North Panay Island. The first was the Barangay of San Diego in the municipality of Lemery.  A “barangay” is the native Filipino term for village, district or ward. Although, this barangay was more inland from the storm, it suffered severe damage to the community’s houses, especially the roofs.  The second area we assessed was the coastal community of Barangay Borongon, municipality of San Dionisio.  This coastal village suffered catastrophic loss of most of its homes and fishing boats.  Of the approximately 174 homes in the village, all were destroyed except for 30, which had significant damage.

Small boats that were not destroyed or lost at sea
were carried far inland by the typhoon's tidal surge,
which also ruined coastal rice crops.
Photo: Mark Kirwin
The village of Borongon also lost nearly of their fishing boats, which provided income for the community.  The villagers thought that the storm surge would be like a normal typhoon but after the first wave they realized that the tsunami-size waves were over 20 feet tall and were obliterating their village. They then fled to the top of a nearby hill to watch their village destroyed and their fishing boats crushed or carried away by the storm.

After assessing the two communities, we were advised that the most need we could provide was roofing materials for the houses.  KIRF then worked with CPU and purchased sheet metal roofing, nails, sealant, tarps and wire and tools to assist with rebuilding the roofs of 226 family dwellings destroyed by the super storm.  The city of Iloilo kindly donated a dump truck and driver to help KIRF deliver the aid to the villages with CPU. With the help of local volunteers we portioned out the building materials we purchased into individual packages for each home. With the volunteers’ help and the loan of the dump truck and driver we delivered and handed out the aid to the individual villagers on December 13, 2013.

The people of barangay Borongon say "Thank you!"
Photo: Courtesy of Dr.Ted  Robles
KIRF wishes to again thank CPU for all of its kindness and hospitality.  The Rotary Club of Ventura who’s partnership made it possible to provide as much relief as we did; and the Filipino’s in Minnesota who supported this trip financially and logistically; as well as all of the other KIRF donors who made this trip possible.

Thank you.

In Peace,
Mark

President
Kirwin International Relief Foundation


This map published by Relief Web shows the devastating path of super Typhoon Haiyan as it crashed through the north east tip of the island of Panay, Philippines:


The path of super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) crossed right over the
north east tip of the island of Panay wrecking buildings and flooding
barangays and local crop land with its tsunami-sized tidal surges.
Graphic: ReliefWeb





















Here are a few more photographs from KIRF's disaster relief on the island of Panay, Philippines:
Before Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) there was a house
here. Near Lemery on the island of Panay, Philippines.
Photo: Mark Kirwin

Another destroyed home on the island of Panay,
Philippines. Photo: Mark Kirwin

Truck and driver donated by the City of Iloilo for KIRF's
disaster relief in nearby coastal barangays. Photo: Mark Kirwin
Young boys play by a boat that was damaged by
Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) on Panay Island.
Photo: Mark Kirwin


A little girl with a big smile who survived
Typhoon Haiyan on the north east coast of Panay Island.
Photo: Mark Kirwin

Children of barangay Borongon looking at us who are
looking at them. Photo: Mark Kirwin

Families who got temporary roofs from KIRF in barangay San Diego.
We wish we could of helped more families rebuild.
Photo: Mark Kirwin
Happy baby, happy mama in barangay Borongon.
Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Ted Robles

Many people returned to their family homes to help with the
disaster relief such as this young lady helping out in barangay
Borongon. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Ted Robles


The Kirwin International Relief Foundation (KIRF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in the state of California. Tax deductible donations can be made on our website (KIRFaid.org), via phone, or mailed to our office:

Kirwin International Relief Foundation
c/o Kirwin Becker Law Group
4480 Market St., Suite 804
Ventura, CA 93003 USA

Telephone: (805) 650-1088
info@KIRFaid.org