Tag Archives: Broken Earth

Nepal Journal: The importance of seeming local.

Special guest blog by Dr. Nikhil Joshi, currently on the ground in Nepal for Team Broken Earth.

I just came down from the village of Tukucha. The village is utterly destroyed. There is not a single standing structure. Women had wept holding me, men quietly stifled their grief. The devastation was heartbreaking and real. We had spent the day talking to local people to determine what their needs are and what they are going to be. Shelter seems high on everyone’s list with monsoon season quickly approaching. There was some food in the village but it was being rationed carefully.

On the way back to the car we pass a military truck which parks next to us and begins to unload and walk up to the village. There are three of us, myself, my local partner Shyam, and Patrick Boyhan, an American businessman interested in helping Nepal. The military is astounded to see Patrick, who is white, so far from the city. I start speaking to them excitedly, telling them I’ve heard about all the help they’ve given.

Something’s wrong.

They’re not looking at me the same way they are Patrick. Two of the men behind the commanding officer I’m speaking to have their hands on their guns. I keep on talking to the officer, trying to appear amiable, but the officer himself is speaking slowly and looking back between myself and Shyam. Shyam tells them that he’s known me for years, that I’m part of an organization who is looking to help. The officer brightens a bit, but his fellow soldiers keep their hands comfortably on their weapons. Patrick looks at the situation and blurts out “He’s a Canadian!” The officers laugh and the guards take their hands off their weapons and give me a hug. I wanted to ask them who they thought I was or why I could have been a threat, but instead I just accepted the hugs, grabbed Patrick and headed to the cab.

I feel I just aged a year.

The true importance this experience has given to me is the importance of seeming local. There are many NGO’s all over the world who strive to do good. Being integrated in the local community, having local partners, and being liked by the people you are helping are simple things that create a huge impact on the success of the endeavor. Life is not always about dollars and cents- sometimes getting work done in a developing country is less about what you have and more about how much you are loved. I was reminded of that as I came home from another long journey.

The town of Nuwakot is 4.5 hours from Kathmandu through frankly dangerous terrain. The roads were awful. There had been landslides the night before after a monsoon rain. One route was completely blocked so we had to back up and try another one. We travelled there to meet to a group called “Eek Eek Paila” (translated roughly to Step-by-step). This is a local group of about 11 Nepalese physicians and dentists of various subspecialty’s with 40 volunteers who travel to remote villages and offer medical care. They collect all the medications, dressings and minor instruments before arriving to the village. I spent a day with them, learning about their organization and speaking about Team Broken Earth. It’s interesting to me how many like-minded people there are around the world. So many people do genuinely care. I find it helps counter the daily negativity we see in the world. Knowing people want to do good is what makes this life brighter.

We were finally on the way home. We looked at the stretch of road before us. Terribly muddy road with half of the right side cracked off. The driver started the journey, but we quickly became stuck. Really stuck. A few local villagers came with some tools and tried to dig us out while toiling in the blistering sun. We were digging with our hands at one point and trying to make a plan together while not fully speaking the same languages. Eventually more people from the village came and we actually pushed the scorching hot car through the mud to the other side. We were so thankful to them. We attempted to give them gifts, but they accepted only our thanks. They said they knew that we had come all that way to help them and they were happy they could do something for us in return.

I’m in my room with a touch of heat stroke, drinking water underneath a fan. And despite the day’s difficulties, I remain happily optimistic about this world. Because some people just choose to care about it.

– Nikhil

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Nepal Journal: There was once nothing.

Special guest blog by Dr. Nikhil Joshi, currently on the ground in Nepal for Team Broken Earth.

I’m hyperventilating.

I need At least 10 translators. They need excellent English skills, and then have to be able to speak at least 3 of Nepal’s 40 or so dialects. They have to be available, affordable and willing to work the long hours our team will.

But that’s not all. I need space. I need clinic space, enough for at least 8 nurses and physicians. Separate rooms to allow people to be examined without loss of their dignity- which is something critically important to preserve as these people have gone through so much.

What about lab equipment? A laboratory tech? Clean disposal of needles? Supplies of dressings, antibiotics, anti-tuberculosis medications? The list goes on and on.

I sit down. I feel defeated. The day hasn’t even earnestly begun and I’m overwhelmed with the sheer complexity that comes when trying to start an endeavor of this magnitude.

But I remind myself that even Team Broken Earth had a beginning. Few people think about that now. We often focus on the excellent work multiple teams from across Canada have done. But before there were two story buildings and Haitian patients walking on rebuilt femurs, there was people like Dr. Furey sleeping on the floor in some random house as patients slept in nearby tents.

There was once nothing. And now Team Broken Earth has launched a multitude of teams and initiatives and are regarded as ‘local’ partners rather than sporadic visitors. The teaching our organization has done in treating patients with trauma was so popular and timely that it captured the gratitude of Haiti’s press and President. From a humble tent on the ground, there is now a stable two story building where people receive aid, are taught and can come for help. There is a foundation laid in the city that people can see. A place that says our commitment to the country is not transient, is not dependent on media coverage, but grounded in a shared vision and hope. Consistent work and focus over a long time will yield results.

Foundations. That is what I need to lay. I need to talk to people, as many people as I possibly can. I need to find who needs help and what help they need. I need to accept that I can’t help everyone but realize I can help someone. I just need to find other local partners whose core needs match our core competencies. I just need to find people who need help and those who can help us.

My mother taught me when I was young that if a problem seems too big to break it down and down into manageable pieces.

So today I’m going to try and find us some translators.

Wish me luck
-Nikhil Joshi

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When the groove is good.

Each update made me more and more excited. Sometimes pictures are just not enough. We are building something. It feels like we’re taking something back from the earthquake’s devastation. Putting a foundation down. Literally, a foundation. A footprint that says Team Broken Earth and our amazing supporters like Columbus are here in Haiti to stay. This new building represents such a big part of our aspirations here.

I can’t help but draw similarities between the new building and our teams. Both started from an idea and have grown so far beyond what we expected or hoped.

Our team is now composed of over 500 people from across the country.  The building – a discussion with our good friend and tireless supporter, Brendan Paddick – is now up to the second floor.

The team is a cohesive working unit.  The building is now a design of working support structures all leaning on each other for support. The team will make an ever-lasting effect on patients… the building, on the face of Haiti.

The teams continue to grow as will the new infrastructure for this country. We can all be proud of that.

Of course it’s business as usual here. Well, Haiti’s version of usual, which means non-stop. The new ER doctor, Brook Saunders, has received his baptism by fire. The surgical team has not stopped with a full day of clinic in two hospitals.

It was good to watch as Dr. Rideout consulted with new patients. They all offered the smiles he’d soon make perfect. And that in turn made us all smile.

– Andrew

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One too many mornings…

This is all too familiar. Early, early rise. Drive to the airport in the dark. The cold still biting. The city’s still asleep. The airport lit up like a greenhouse.

This can be the toughest part sometimes… times when I am not so psyched about the trip. To be honest, sometimes I am just exhausted. Dead tired. Worn down. Sometimes, it’s because of the bureaucratic weight of the teams and the organization and keeping everything in motion. Sometimes it’s just too many balls in the air and the tension of making sure nothing drops. Sometimes, I just want a break. Order a pizza. Binge-watch the latest season of House of Cards. Sleep late.

It’s bright inside the airport. Start seeing the familiar faces. The smiles are big. Even bigger are the smiles of the flight agents checking us in. They know all about the team and love to see us coming. There are hugs and coffee and laughs. There’s an energy. An indescribable excitement building with each team member arriving. And that is it. That’s the turning point. It’s the team. It’s the immediate sense of the team that makes those previous feelings fade instantly. Kevin Spacey will have to wait.

Another 30 people. Another 30 families and loved ones, giving up their vacation time to help. That gets me every time! Even though some of the trips become routine, standing here in the airport, watching people make this sacrifice, well, it’s humbling.

I’m a lucky guy. I’m blessed by the energy and support of my own family, who give more than I will ever know. I am inspired by each and every team member, and I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of humility from the support we have received from people across the country. I feel a responsibility to not let them down. To honour their generosity.

I know that there is a lot to do. A lot to accomplish. I know that there are lives to change… patients and our own. I’m ready. Let’s get this mission going!

– Andrew

PS. We all read your Tweets and posts and messages of support. That’s what fuels us for a week in Haiti. Thank you for that and please keep them coming!

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