Thursday, April 30, 2015

Quilts for Kids Nepal - In the Earthquake’s Aftermath

I imagine most, if not all, of you have been reading and watching the news reports of the horrific earthquake and after shocks that have in recent days devastated the heavily populated Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal.  It has left in its wake unbelievable destruction and a death toll ranging into the thousands and growing by the hour.  Neighboring regions and countries were also impacted by the worst earthquake to hit this area in over 80 years.  This news brought with it fear for the safety and well-being of a dear friend and the many people he helps in Kathmandu. 

James Hopkins is one of the most sincere and humble individuals I have had the pleasure to meet, and we have known each other for a quarter of a century.  He worked for over two decades as an investment broker in New York and here in Washington, DC, prior to an early retirement.  He left his old world behind and moved to Kathmandu to continue his studies in Buddhism and to undertake work on behalf of others less fortunate than himself.  Living in Asia, James was troubled by the quality of life and limited possibilities of the people living around him. He discussed this with a local lama and asked how he might help his new neighbors. The lama gave him a simple answer . . . use whatever skills you have to help the people you encounter.

Wandering the streets of Kathmandu, James discovered an Indian street “begging community” located in the city’s Boudhanath neighborhood.  Even under normal circumstances, its inhabitants, most of whom come from Punjab and Rajasthan, on India’s western border with Pakistan, and from Bihar state, situated along Nepal’s southeastern border, live in  poverty and squalor.  Yet even in these sordid conditions James found the camp’s Hindu women working together to produce amazingly beautiful quilts.  He realized that, with the right guidance and support, these women had a commodity they might sell to benefit their families. Created and operated by James since 2006, “Quilts for Kids Nepal” is a successful micro-finance project which empowers impoverished women while at the same time providing a safe and secure education for their children.  You can read more about this wonderful project at its website:

After days of growing concern for James’ safety, I was relieved to learn that he escaped harm having just returned to the States on a personal matter.   But he left his friends and colleagues behind and I know he must have been heartsick wondering what had happened to everyone in a neighborhood we now know was heavily damaged by the quake.  Fortunately, James and others have been able to confirm that there has been no loss of life in the community from which “Quilts for Kids Nepal” operates.  James reminds us that “those living in poverty are always the hardest hit by natural disasters, and the kids in this community are especially vulnerable.”  Although safe for the moment, food and drinking water are already running short, and soon they will face longer-term needs for rice, medicine, clothing and shelter.

If you would like to make a donation to support this troubled community during this time of uncertainty, there is a “Nepal Earthquake Relief” tab on the organization’s website -  Quilts for Kids is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 charity registered in the United States.  You can donate as much or as little as you would like in multiples of $25.  “Quilts for Kids Nepal” will administer the relief effort; 100% of your donation will go directly to support the needs of this special community.  The kids and their families, indeed everyone in Kathmandu, needs our support right now.  The situation in Nepal is rather serious and its limited resources are being spread very thin.  Any help at all will be greatly appreciated.   And while you are at it, consider purchasing one of the lovely quilts.  The money will go to provide salaries for the women, to purchase cloth and thread for their work, or to provide simple food for them while they work.

Please join me in sending what you can along with our prayers and thoughts to James as he returns home to Nepal to help in the reconstruction efforts and to continue the righteous work of “Quilts for Kids Nepal.”  

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