Nonprofit READ (Rural Education and Development) Global’s network of community libraries in Nepal is starting to reopen and respond to the recent devastating earthquake. The 7.8-magnitude disaster hit Nepal, 50 km north of capital city Kathmandu, before noon on Saturday, April 25.
The initial event was followed by multiple aftershocks, including one registered at 6.7 magnitude the following day. More than 4,000 deaths had been confirmed at press time, and some 7,000 injuries, with Kathmandu hit particularly hard. The earthquake’s effects were felt as far away as Lahore, Pakistan; Lhasa, Tibet; and Dhaka, Bangladesh; with at least 61 dead in outlying areas. Rescue efforts are ongoing, with many residents still trapped beneath rubble. Supplies of food, water, and fuel are limited; and a number of remote villages remain inaccessible by land.
Since its founding in 1991, the READ Global has established community library and resource centers in rural areas throughout South Asia, including the 59 centers currently serving READ Nepal. Each READ Center, owned and operated by the local community, holds a library, computer room, women’s section, children’s room, and training hall.
On April 27, Tina Sciabica, READ Global’s executive director, told LJ, “We are getting updates frequently from Nepal as communications have finally started to open up again. We know that many of our Centers are OK, and some are starting to raise funds and provide services to those who most need it.” The day before, she’d posted an update on the organization’s website stating that while communications in the area were challenged due to power outages, she believed that READ Nepal’s team members in Kathmandu were safe. However as of press time READ had only heard back from about a third of the communities it works with. “We haven’t heard from all of our Centers near the epicenter,” Sciabica said. “Unfortunately, we have heard initial reports that a few of our communities have sustained damage—to the library buildings and the communities at large. We will share more updates as communication lines become more clear. We know that there will be a lot of work to be done in the coming months to help respond and rebuild.”
In the wake of the earthquake, Sciabica told LJ, “Our solar-powered center in Panauti (just outside Kathmandu) is providing electricity so that community members can charge their mobile phones—which is the only mode of communication for many people. They are also mobilizing youth groups to provide support for earthquake victims.”
Leaders at READ Global’s Jhuwani Center in Chitwan are working with READ staff to connect to all READ libraries, and are raising funds to channel into response efforts where they are most needed. READ Global has established a fundraising campaign, and will continue to update its blog as it has more information to share. In addition, READ has created a self-serve platform for supporters to launch their own fundraising campaigns to help raise money for its rebuilding efforts in Nepal.
Sciabica said, “I would reiterate that there’s a need for both short-term disaster relief and also the long-term rebuilding efforts, which are going to take months, and possibly years in some communities. We do hope that the READ centers, where they are still functioning—which hopefully will be in several communities—can really play a role in providing short-term relief and also getting people back on their feet, rebuilding homes and getting people back into their livelihoods.”
READ Global and LJ encourage readers to help support Nepal through one of the many organizations working to provide emergency response services. A list of relief agencies can be found here. In addition, Translators Without Borders is looking for speakers of Nepalese or Bhata to help its crisis response team.