Two friends, 1 mission: Coming together in support of Nepal
Most friendships develop from shared experience, and some grow to span borders. Friends Christopher Smith, Director of TELUS’ National Retail division, and Mattias Bryneson, Country Director for Plan Nepal, first met in Uganda in 2011 where Chris and his wife, Gillian, were volunteering in the same region Mattias worked in with Plan.
When Mattias and his family moved to Nepal, the Smiths were eager to visit their friends and explore the country. Sadly, less than a month after they returned from this trip, a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, followed by more than 30 powerful aftershocks and another powerful earthquake on May 12.
Every 5 years Chris (at far left) and his wife Gillian (at far right) volunteer abroad for a year. They hope exposing their children to new experiences will help them “become the compassionate, caring citizens of the world that we all hope to be and we all hope we are,” shares Chris. Here the 2 families stand with Mt. Everest in the distance.
A tragic turn of events
Immediately following the first earthquake Chris and Mattias were in touch. And though extremely relieved to hear their friends were safe, the widespread devastation of a country and people they had so recently encountered was difficult to comprehend. Since the initial quake on April 25, more than 8,000 lives have been claimed, 17,000 injured and roughly 8 million left in need of humanitarian assistance.
“It’s hard to imagine the impact of the tragedy on the ground through pictures and stories on the internet and TV,” explains Chris, with fond memories still fresh in his mind. “We really had quite a positive experience in Nepal, which makes it that much harder.”
In late March, the families spent several days in Kathmandu – visiting a Plan-supported school, which they described as a “bright light” for children in the community. They even spent over a week hiking to about 4,600 meters elevation along the Mt. Everest basecamp trail, meeting local families along the remote path.
“It really stuck out how friendly, fun and lively the kids were that we interacted with and how resilient they need to be in the face of poverty,” Chris recalls. Following the quakes, this resilience has been tested that much more.
“Children may be separated from their families, injured themselves, their homes may be damaged or destroyed, and they may be deeply traumatized,” explains Mattias, who is on the ground conducting Plan’s relief efforts in Nepal. “As we assess the needs of communities and deliver relief, these needs will be among our top priorities.”
Support on the ground and at home
Here Mattias Bryneson of Plan Nepal distributes relief resources to a rural community.
Children are at the heart of Plan’s work, and their well-being is always our top priority – especially in emergencies. Since 1978, we’ve been working hand-in-hand with communities in Nepal to improve children’s lives, and will continue to do so throughout the recovery process.
As Mattias and his team work on the ground to help serve the immediate and long-term needs of Nepal, Chris and the team at TELUS are contributing from across the globe: TELUS has generously donated $20,000 to Plan’s work in Nepal, as part of a larger $100,000 donation to relief initiatives. They also offered Plan Nepal over 750 smartphones and tablets, which will be used on the ground to track and coordinate assessment of needs, distribution of resources/services and response feedback.
“I’ve been really impressed with Plan and what a well-run organization it is,” says Chris, adding, “I have 100% confidence in Mattias and his integrity and deep knowledge of development issues and know donations will have true impact on the ground through him and the organization.”
A cross-country commitment
Mattias and Chris at Namche Bazaar on the main trail to Mt. Everest, 3,440 meters.
Now home in Canada, Chris has been reflecting on what this next chapter will mean for Nepal – with all its difficulties and potential.
“The warmth and openness of the people we interacted with was just incredible given the level of poverty and challenges they have … I think that optimism and positive nature is what the people of Nepal will need to see them through in rebuilding after this disaster.”
He worries that this tragic event, and the struggle of the Nepalese people, will wane from global consciousness with time, and that hope and optimism alone are not enough.
“Hope needs to be nurtured, supported and encouraged,” he says, urging that now is the time “to let the Nepalese know we’ve got their backs and will support them through the long development that is to come.”
Plan is proud to participate in the HUMANITARIAN COALITION, comprised of Plan Canada, CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Québec, Save the Children Canada, five of Canada’s largest relief agencies. By joining our efforts, the HUMANITARIAN COALITION will increase the impact of Canadian humanitarian responses and reduce administrative costs.
To find out more, visit the HUMANITARIAN COALITION website at together.ca