In response to the earthquakes that devastated Nepal this spring, REI teamed up with the global relief and development organization Mercy Corps. REI raised more than $820,000 through the generosity of REI members and customers. The situation in Nepal continues to be very challenging, and REI's commitment to the country's recovery and rebuilding will continue.
“We donated an initial $50,000 to Mercy Corps just a few days after it happened," said Kristen Ragain, REI Community Affairs Program Manager. “Then, we really wanted to reach out to the entire REI member community. We worked with Mercy Corps to create a new page on their website that we could drive people to in order to make donations. An incredible 10,662 people have made a total of $832,917 in donations as of May 13th.”
It’s not too late to help Mercy Corps’ efforts by donating at https://www.mercycorps.org/help-earthquake-survivors-with-rei-and-mercycorps.html
Mercy Corps has been in Nepal since 2006 with a team mostly comprised of Nepali nationals. Ragain said REI wanted to work with an organization that already understands Nepali culture and has supply chains in place, so that when money came in they could buy what they needed locally and get it to families and individuals quickly.
Mercy Corps had 90 staff members on the ground before the quake. They’ve now increased the size of their team to facilitate disaster response and recovery. This includes local team members and additional seasoned emergency responders.
“We are seeing many, many people with a wide range of urgent needs,” said Sanjay Karki, Country Director for Mercy Corps. “For some people, that means basic necessities such as food, clean water, clothing and a safe, secure place to live. Certainly, there are scores of people who were injured, and those health and medical needs are also being addressed. People are also battling many emotional issues—fatigue, anxiety, uncertainty about their homes, worries about family members. The list goes on and on.”
Within hours of the earthquake, the Mercy Corps team was in the streets of Kathmandu talking to survivors, assessing the situation and determining immediate needs. They also took steps on how best to support people living remote villages. Within 24 hours they were distributing emergency supply kits to survivors. The kits include clothing, cooking utensils, towels, and hygiene and water purification supplies.
Many villages remain accessible only by foot or helicopter. Despite this logistical difficulty, emergency relief supplies are reaching areas identified by the Nepal government as being in critical need of help.
REI’s support for Nepal was grounded in its long-standing, close ties with the local guide community through its in-house adventure travel company, REI Adventures, which has been offering guided treks in Nepal for 28 years.
When the April 25 earthquake happened, REI had three groups in Nepal: two in the Everest region and one in Chitwan National Park, a total of 15 members.
“We first focused on establishing contact with our teams in Nepal,” said Justin Wood, REI Adventures Manager of Trip Operations and Development. “We got a full assessment of their whereabouts, health and safety. And we figured out next steps to facilitate an expedient and safe journey home. As we made sure our trekkers were okay, we also checked in on the families of the Nepali people who supported the trekkers.”
The work is far from over, and with the help of money raised Mercy Corps remains committed to reaching and assisting those areas that have been inaccessible or overlooked and on assessing communities’ longer-term needs.
“REI and its members have already done so much, the compassion is overwhelming,” said Karki. “However, we know that much of the hard work is still ahead of us. As the story fades from the limelight and the cameras pull away, we appreciate REI's ongoing commitment to support Mercy Corps' work to transition from emergency relief to recovery.”
Photos courtesy of Mercy Corps.