Kyoto residents rally around Nepal quake victims in charity drive

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

When earthquakes struck Nepal in April and May, killing more than 8,700 people, relief poured in from around the world. That included aid from a group of friends in Kyoto, for whom the people of Nepal were not far off strangers but friends, and almost family members, who they’d been assisting for many years, especially children.

In 2005, Kyoto-based foreign residents Kevin Ramsden, Max Dodds and John Ashburne decided to financially sponsor children at the Laliguras Children’s Home, which was established by the Nepal YMCA to take care of 10 orphans, semi-orphans and children who were destitute.

The facility is about 15 km from the center of Kathmandu.

The money raised in Kyoto covers the expenses of a full-time cook and teacher, three meals a day, school fees and other basic operational expenses. It’s also used for school exam fees and transportation expenses so that some children, who range in age from 6 to 16 years, can return to their villages to meet with relatives and friends.

The funds come from 10 Kyoto-based families and the proceeds from charity events. The home is run by the Nepal YMCA. Sponsor families donate ¥80,000 for the year.

Kyoto sponsors also help support about 60 local children at a separate YMCA child care center school in Nepal, sending money to cover the cost of teachers and teaching materials. And a Japanese nongovernment organization, Kopernik, has received ¥200,000 from the group for solar lights and water purifier projects in Nepal.

All of the help is critical. Even before the earthquakes, Nepal was one of the world’s poorest countries.

Oxfam International notes that with a population of almost 30 million, Nepal ranked 157th out of 187 in the 2011 U.N. Human Development Index. An estimated 55 percent of the Nepalese population live below the poverty line, with 37 percent considered to be living in severe poverty.

The Kyoto group sent ¥600,000 for relief efforts in May, and a separate event at the end of May, after the second major quake, had brought in a total of ¥2.4 million by the end of June.

All of the children in the Laliguras home came through the quake unharmed, Ramsden said.

There are many relief and volunteer projects going on in Nepal, but Ramsden, Dodds and Ashburne are quick to note they are not a nongovernment organization, just the coordinators of a larger group of close Kyoto area friends who are passionate about Nepal, its people and the children. Of course, the group receives and welcomes assistance from others, especially now that Nepal must rebuild from the two earthquakes.

“This is about friends in Kyoto wanting to do something for the people of Nepal,” Dodds said.

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