Nepal is a landlocked country in Central Asia, sandwiched between the plains of India and the Tibetan plateau. Nepal is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with inadequate infrastructure, persistent power shortages, lack of health care, and recurring political instability. 80% of its people live in rural areas, dependent upon subsistence farming, with 30% living on less than $14 per person per month. 1,500 Nepali youth leave Kathmandu daily to work overseas. 30% of Nepal’s GDP depends on remittances-the money sent from Nepali overseas workers.
The majesty of the Himalayas (Nepal is home to eight of the world’s highest mountains), the beauty of the mid-hills, the warmth and friendliness of the people, and ten UNESCO World Heritage sites, draw mountaineers, trekkers, and tourists from across the globe. Tourism represents 8% of the country’s economy.
Langtang National Park, Valley and Village
The massive April, 2015, earthquake, with an epicenter 48 miles northwest of Kathmandu, left a trail of devastation in over twenty districts in Nepal. This magnitude 7.8 quake triggered an avalanche in the Langtang Valley, located at 12,000 feet elevation near the Tibet border. A favorite destination on Nepal’s third most popular trekking route, Langtang National Park and the Langtang Valley offered an idyllic paradise of rock houses, grazing yaks, and traditional people seemingly bypassed by time, high in the snow-capped, majestic Himalayas.
A landslide with the force of half an atomic bomb, traveled 3,000 feet down a mountainside, burying all 116 homes of the village of Langtang under 100 feet of snow, ice and rock. 175 Langtangpas were instantly killed, along with 110 foreign trekkers and 30 Nepali guides. 13 children were left without parents. 400 people survived. Along with immense human loss, there was also a significant cultural loss.
In May, 2015, FIRE quickly expanded project work into the Langtang area by fundraising and then distributing $25,000 worth of immediate aid to 60 of the 116 Langtang families, hand-to-hand. This included medical treatment, food, shelter, clothing and blankets. FIRE assisted 13 orphaned elders with 1,100 pounds of aid including food and bedding and moved them into a safe and warm “Elder House,” the first of its kind in the area. Addressing the enormous cultural loss, FIRE collected three hours of film footage, including 19 interviews from survivors age 8 to 70 in four different languages.
Presently, FIRE conducts medical and other volunteer trips to the area and meets with relevant stakeholders, community leaders and local families to Identify highest need individuals and families, and to determine FIRE’s long-term priorities and outlines for sustainable, empowering programming. We remain flexible as things in Langtang are still rapidly changing and developing. Although our programming is continually evolving, our work focuses on immediate needs, community development, economic development, and cultural preservation.