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Want to help in Nepal (or any crisis)? Here’s how.

Want to help in Nepal (or any crisis)? Here’s how.

If you’ve so much as logged on to the Internet in the past few days, you’ve almost certainly heard about the earthquake that rocked Nepal on Saturday. The initial 7.9 quake and some 35 aftershocks have already killed over 4,000 (a figure that’s guaranteed to keep rising) and injured and displaced many, many more, with an unknown number of people still missing. Suffice it to say, the humanitarian toll of the earthquake is tremendous, and it came at a time when the international system is already strained by ongoing crises in Gaza, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

And with any disaster (particularly one in a sexy voluntourism- and backpacker-friendly country like Nepal!) comes an onslaught of good intentions. The world needs more people who care, who are empathetic and compassionate, who are willing to put their money where their mouth is. But it doesn’t need more rogue college students, church groups or other White Saviours getting in the way of urgent humanitarian response.

To the seasoned aid critic (or enthusiastic blog reader), this may sound like a broken record, but crisis after crisis shows it’s one that needs to keep playing.

Do not go volunteer in a crisis. Do not send stuff (pillowcase dresses, ski jackets, stuffed animals, old medical equipment, notebooks, yoga mats…) to a disaster zone. DO donate money! Choose an established professional organisation, one that works in disaster response and has experience in Nepal – the likes of CARE, Mercy Corps, the Red Cross or MSF.

Not convinced? Check out what some of your favourite tweeps have to say about it.

Here’s hoping we’ll see less of the voluntourism and SWEDOW that contributed to making the Haiti earthquake response so problematic, and more well-researched donations to effective organisations. Featured image shows Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Nepal, the day of the earthquake. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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Jennifer Ambrose

Jennifer is the Editor-in-Chief of WhyDev and an International Research Analyst at Mathematica Policy Research. Previously, she served for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda, where she taught English and helped implement projects in community health and financial inclusion. Jennifer is particularly interested in development ethics, aid effectiveness and communications in development. She’s a contributing editor of “Advocacy in Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Transnational Activism” (Zed Books), and holds an M.A. in International Development from The Fletcher School at Tufts University. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeneambrose.

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8 thoughts on “Want to help in Nepal (or any crisis)? Here’s how.



  2. […] couple of my friends have asked me who they should give to if they want to give cash – the right gift by the way – to help Nepal.  Right after one of the Assistant Commissioners of the Australia […]

  3. Laura

    Hi Jennifer. Thank you for your article and reminding people to stay professional in emergency response. I am commenting on this post as a small Nepalese NGO – ECWZ Nepal that has been established for the last ten years in the LANGTANG/RASUWA district has contacted me for management support in delivering essential aid to their isolated communities. It is a very small grass roots Nepalese organisation and has delivered emergency response in the past after a 2006 landslide. The local presence, relationships, history and grass roots nature of ECWZ Nepal can not be trumped by larger aid organisations such as MSF, CARE, Red Cross etc (not to mention grass roots NGOs ability to relay authentic needs based assessments!). However, clearly their capacity is not at all as capable as experienced emergency response teams. In order to support a healthy symbiotic relationship and compliment, gap fill, reach through the dire cracks and welcome responses from larger organisations, coordination is obviously essential. Currently, I am compiling a list of all the coordination platforms on the ground and am asking the community if people could please share links and any contacts or specific information about all of the coordination platforms that people may be aware of. Eg national military, police, OCHA, “The Nepal Humanitarian Country Team” Please share in these comments, or email me at Thank you.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Laura! I’ve been trying to learn more about good local Nepalese organizations and will share the information about ECWZ Nepal. I’m not too familiar with other coordination platforms but I recently came across the Humanitarian ID website, which may be useful:

  4. […] advice here and here on helping in a disaster […]

  5. Organizations that are already embedded in the community are the first responders to any disaster. They know the area well, and in the early days of a catastrophe such as this, their staff and volunteers are engaged with first aid, light search and rescue, disaster assessments, and delivery of relief services. Indigenous nonprofits in ‪‎Nepal‬ are there on the ground, responding to people’s most crucial needs before, during, and after the earthquake.

    Disasters and emergencies such as these affect poor people and rural women disproportionately. That is why IDEX’s local partners are well-placed to respond and will continue to do so. You can check out their Recovery & Resilience Fund here:

    Tewa, the Nepal Women’s Fund, is also a great way to ensure your donations get down to the ground:

    1. Thanks for your comment and the suggestion of organizations in Nepal! I’ve been looking for information on good local organizations people can donate to, and will start recommending those two.


        Dear Brothers and Sisters in Australia,



        It has been difficult reaching remote areas by local government and international rescue teams. Fortunately due to extensive knowledge of our monks and nuns who actually come from these remote areas, two monasteries in Kathmandu are able to reach and deliver rescue aid, food and medical treatment and supplies. Following are the information for these two monasteries, details of the work they have been handling since the earthquake hit and their secure western PayPal donation link for those who wish to support the relief work they are carrying. More than 90% destruction caused in these remote villages by the earthquake and any help you come up with would be of great benefit. You may wish to print this and put on your advertising board. For media inquiries and on-air radio & TV interviews, please contact our media representative Tom Greensmith who had the first-hand experience of the earthquake himself and a member of our rescue & relief team. Thank you.

        Grace Greenland – Volunteer



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