The desperate telephone calls began soon after the massive earthquake hit Nepal on April 25. The calls were in search of more than 100 children supported by the Mitrata-Nepal Foundation.
Some of the calls were still unanswered amid the aftershocks. The uncertainty of those unanswered calls remained in late April for Jim Craig and other sponsors of individual impoverished Nepali children. Craig is on the board of the St. Louis-based Mitrata-Nepal Foundation. The child he sponsors, Sushmita, a high school junior who lives near Kathmandu, had not been found. The Craig family’s financial support has allowed Sushmita to go to school. “We haven’t heard anything,” Craig said at presstime.
There was better news for Pam Hughes, another child sponsor and foundation board member. Puja, the young woman she began sponsoring three years ago, had been found safe at a small boarding school at the edge of Kathmandu.
“I’m so happy,” Hughes said.
About 40 of the 102 children currently being helped by the foundation had been accounted for on May 1 with only one injury reported, said Alexis Mead, the foundation’s development and operations director. The foundation’s Nepali staff also is accounted for.
Along with the thousands of lives lost, Mead said the initial 7.8-magnitude earthquake caused widespread damage to buildings and communications throughout the Kathmandu Valley, where the foundation’s children live. People were forced to live outdoors with little sanitation or water. Cellphone and Internet communications were deteriorating because the lack of power to charge them and local and international relief efforts were just getting underway.
The foundation’s mission is to help individual children by providing food, clothing, housing and medical care, and preparing and placing children in private or boarding schools.
The foundation partners with the Bhuvaneshwori Satyal Foundation, a non-governmental organization in Nepal that works directly with thechildren.
Mead said it could take weeks to locate all of the children and their families and to assess and address their individual needs. A rudimentary power supply also may charge cellphone batteries, helping to re-establish contact. She said one saving grace has been Facebook’s “Safe Check” feature that allowed some older children to sign in and click a button that indicates they are safe.
While the organization cannot provide large-scale relief services, it is accepting donations earmarked for the “Earthquake Crisis” fund online at mitrata.org. Donors also can mail a check to Mitrata-Nepal Foundation for Children, “Children’s Earthquake Relief Fund,” 7253 Watson Road, Suite 127, St. Louis, MO 63119 or contact Mead at (314) 249-0354.