University researchers are currently working to alleviate the devastation from the earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25.

Killing more than 7,000 people and injuring more than double that amount, it was the most powerful earthquake to hit Nepal in over 80 years.

At a time when many other researchers in the area left, University researchers chose to stay and help the people of Nepal. Dirgha Ghimire, associate professor at the Institute for Social Research, has led an ongoing research project in Nepal for more than two decades. He is currently working on three projects in Nepal that are components of this ongoing one.

Ghimire’s team is now focusing its efforts on providing relief in the form of tents, food and other necessities to remote affected areas. Ghimire said his motivation for staying was purely humanitarian.

“We saw the devastation and got messages from people in many, many remote villages where they were left with nothing,” Ghimire said. “I exactly knew how hard it is to get even basic supplies in these remote areas during normal situations, let alone in this situation when they have lost everything. In this situation, as a human being I felt it as my responsibility to help the survivors of this devastating earthquake as much as we can,” he said.

Initially, Ghimire and his wife decided to donate the Nepali rupee equivalent of $1,000 to go toward buying supplies. After he told his team and their partners at the University’s Institute of Social and Environmental Research in Nepal about this donation, team members each unanimously agreed to donate an equivalent of one day’s pay — $770 — toward the relief effort and prepare to enter into the remote and dangerous areas.

They hoped to provide immediate basic relief aid that would suffice until other larger agencies could arrive. The team began its efforts two days after an aftershock rated 6.7 on the Richter scale, which made the area too dangerous to leave. The care packages included a 15-by-18-foot plastic tent, 10 kilograms of rice, five kilograms of beaten rice, two kilograms of dry lentils, one kilogram of salt and 10 packs of instant noodles. To date, they have delivered 580 care kits — equivalent to $12,000 worth of relief materials.

Ghimire said he anticipated these efforts would continue until the team ran out of money, but things turned out differently than he expected. During his regular research update to William Axinn, a research professor for the Institute for Social Research, and Stephanie Chardoul, survey director at the Institute of Social Research, Ghimire mentioned the relief effort. The researchers then spearheaded an initiative to raise funds.

“As the news spread, the number of people wanting to contribute to this effort increased substantially, leading to institutionalization of this effort by creating an account at ISR,” Ghimire said.

After the University Record reported the team had run out of money after their first day, Ghimire said, there was a large influx of donations.

“If our colleagues in UM have not step up, we would not be able to provide this scale of relief work,” Ghimire said. “Once published in Michigan Record, this news was widely circulated, particularly among Michigan alumni and people from Nepali diaspora, and I have received several inquires, including phone calls from individuals and organizations,” he said.

Ghimire also said University alum Saman Ghimire has raised more than $5,000, the Ann Arbor Nepali community has raised $1,600, and the American Society of Nepalese Engineers has raised $2,000, among other individuals and organizations.

Ghimire said he believes this relief effort, along with the multitude of donors, demonstrates the compassion of the University community.

“First, once again, this reiterates human value — that no matter where they live, every human life has equal value,” Ghimire said.

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