On April 25, 2015, the world woke up to news of the devastating earthquake in Nepal, costing the lives of more than 8,000 and injuring over 19,000 people. The calamity registered a magnitude of 7.8Mw, making it as the worst natural disaster that ever hit the country since the Bihar earthquake in 1934.
Cases of avalanche were reported on Mount Everest and Langtang Valley, buildings and other infrastructure including those recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites were destroyed, and thousands of people have been displaced as the entire city now lay in ruins. And as the citizens are just beginning to rise from it all, another earthquake of 7.8 magnitude shook Eastern Nepal last May 12, killing nearly 50 and hurting over a thousand people.
We may not have control over the disaster, but we can certainly help in the relief efforts. In the Philippines, one of the organizations that launched an initiative to raise funds to donate to the earthquake victims is the Project #BackpackerTeacher (PBT). A fundraising event called, Hugs for Nepal (HFN) was recently held in three separate locations in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Project #Backpacker Teacher
PBT, a volunteer group composed of members who have the passion for teaching and traveling, was officially launched in April this year. The reach of this group is nationwide, with three chapters to accommodate volunteers from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. This organization is headed by an on-the-road couple behind the blog, Two Monkeys Travel Group (TMT), Kach Medina and Jonathan Howe. TMT has a Facebook forum with over 2000 members from all over the world, who like to call themselves as the “Kaladkarin.” Hence, the bulk of PBT volunteers are travelers who are part of the TMT forum.
Hugs for Nepal
Hugs for Nepal is the first fundraising activity of PBT, conceptualized by one of the TMT members, Erwin Manalad. Once the idea was out, the ball started rolling. Some members of the TMT came forward to help organize the event including, Krizh Montecillo, Kris Rock, and Beng Vega. Brainstorming began during the small meetups of these people. As the days progressed, so did the plan. Eventually, the details were disseminated across PBT’s Visayas and Mindanao teams. Carlo Dominguez, the Secretary General of PBT took charge and coordinated the plans with the PBT’s Regional Coordinators, Yvon Angeli Simone Cañete of Team Visayas, and Kat Jimenez of Team Mindanao.
PBT-Team Mindanao held the first event on May 16 at Marco Polo Hotel, Davao City, followed by PBT-Team Visayas at Le Village Guesthouse Hostel and Bar in Cebu, also on the same date. PBT-Team Luzon on the other hand conducted the activity on May 17 in Metrowalk, Pasig City.
The event in Luzon began at 6PM last night at Frazz Bar. It started with a prayer offered to all people who have been affected by the earthquake. Though the night began with only a few attendees, it ended with over 60 participants. The fund was raised through hugging, given by five Kaladkarin, Krista, Erwin, Jerny, Chelle, and Cathy. Each hug equals to any amount donated by the participants.
The Hugs of Nepal project raised a total of 12,059PHP, including those collected from the events in Visayas and Mindanao. All proceeds from Manila and Cebu were given to World Vision Philippines while the money raised from Davao City was handed over to Red Cross Davao Chapter.
Working to make this big event successful was not easy with the short amount of time given to put things together and the fact that the group is fairly new. We had to work days and nights to ensure that everything would work according to plan. Initially, we didn’t have funds to support the project but when the plan has been announced, it received an outpour of support from the Kaladkarins.
Marjorie’s final thoughts
There was a time in my life when I used to believe I’m too small to do anything for the rest of the world. The 7-11 attack, the tsunami in Thailand, the earthquake in Japan are just some of the disasters I viewed in the comforts of my home, limiting myself to just listening to the news and sharing information through social media. So when I heard that Project #BackpackerTeacher, a new volunteering group that I recently joined, had plans to gather donation for the victims of the earthquake in Nepal, I knew I had to be a part of it. Suddenly I will be a spectator no more, but a part of a movement that has the means and the determination to reach out to the world and help make things better.
I’ve been given every excuse not to go to the Hugs for Nepal event. Last Saturday, I was part of the committee that ran in the middle of the scorching heat of the sun, playing a sheep dog to nearly 50 people. It was our company summer outing, a 4-hour drive away from Manila. When we went home on the 17th I didn’t have the luxury to get enough sleep. 4 hours on the road + sleep/rest deprived body = disaster. By the time I reached Makati, I was already feeling a bit feverish. To make it worse, I went home to a room that would put any sauna to shame. Still, I showered and went all the way to Mandaluyong to attend the fundraising event. Where did I get the strength to do this? Simple, I conjured in my head the heart-breaking pictures that I saw of late of the catastrophe that is the Gorkha earthquake. If I have a way to support something that may help those people feel a little better even when I can’t be there physically, then I don’t want to pass up on that opportunity.
The Hugs for Nepal experience taught me that no effort is too small to make a difference. And I hope that we from the Project #BackpackerTeacher are able to provide inspiration to those who are looking for ways to help Nepal’s earthquake victims or any other people who need assistance for that matter. If you want to help then go out and volunteer. I assure that you that you matter and you can make a difference, you just have to go out there and do it.
Carlo’s final thoughts
As the number of deaths and injuries rise every day from one of the worst earthquakes that hit the Himalayan Nation in the past 80 years, I found myself deeply affected by the images of devastation that were shared online and on television. It reminded me of the time when some of our people from Bohol suffered from one of the deadliest earthquakes that ever hit our country in October 2013. A question has been raised in our forum at Two Monkeys Travel, “What we can do to help?” The Hugs for Nepal event is the answer to that question.
Before, I’m unsure of what is my real purpose in life. However, when I joined the Two Monkeys Travel and handled the Project #BackpackerTeacher, it is now clear to me that my real purpose is to give myself in the service of others. I used to dream about being part of an organization that supports advocacies close to my heart such as education, alleviation of poverty, and relief efforts for people that have been affected by calamities. I am therefore thankful that I found TMT, an online community that is perfect for those who share the passion in traveling. And I am grateful that from being a member, I found PBT, the volunteer group that promotes exactly those advocacies that I want to support.
The Hugs for Nepal experience has been a good learning experience for me. I’m extremely happy to see people sharing hugs with another even if they just met for the first time. It moved me to see people willing to share any amount they have to support the cause, with joy and compassion.
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