On the 25th April 2015 a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal killing nearly 9,000 people and injuring over 21,000. As people on the ground emerged from the rubble and local responders were assisting those in need, the international humanitarian community was heading into Kathmandu to provide much needed help to the survivors.
One of these response organisations was Team Rubicon, a disaster response charity formed by US military veterans in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake five years previously. The Team Rubicon group that arrived in Kathmandu was supplemented by British veterans, including Gurkhas, who brought much needed cultural understanding and a knowledge of the geography of their homeland.
This became Operation Tenzing, with Greyshirts providing medical support, conducting needs assessments, delivering humanitarian aid and helping people reconstruct their homes in Sermathang, in the Helambu Valley, and Larprak in the Gorkha region close to the epicentre of the earthquake. On their return from Nepal these veterans formed the nucleus of what would soon become Team Rubicon UK and we proudly trace the inception of our organisation back to the hills of Nepal.
As a result of the earthquake there had been colossal damage to infrastructure with thousands losing their homes. In December 2015, a small team of Greyshirts, including Umesh Pun who led the Gurkha contingent during the earthquake response, returned to the Gorkha region to oversee the installation of over 100 temporary shelters. During this deployment they came across the village of Lapubesi. This community of 3,000 people had been devastated by the earthquake; 16 people lost their lives and 95% of the population’s homes were destroyed entirely. The school was nothing but rubble and the hydroelectric power facility that provided the villagers with electricity had been smashed by a huge boulder.
In March 2016 Team Rubicon UK returned to Lapubesi to rebuild the school and put plans in place to reconstruct the hydro-power source. After a number of visits to Lapubesi in 2016 and 2017 the provision of hydroelectric power was returned to Lapubesi in May 2018 restoring electricity to 3,000 people who had lived without it since the earthquake struck three years earlier.
Whilst these efforts have been focused on assisting the recovery from disaster, Nepal sits between two tectonic plates so is perennially at risk from another earthquake. In February 2019, Team Rubicon UK partnered with the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) to deliver Capacity Building training to its staff in Kathmandu, Butwal and Dharan. This outstanding charity provides financial, medical and development aid to Gurkha veterans, their families and communities through a network of area welfare centres spread across the country. The training was focused on three key areas; incident management, medical and search and rescue with an emphasis on earthquake response and over 100 GWT staff attended the training.
Next month we return to repeat the programme with a switch to flood response and water safety and rescue. In 2019 more than 50 people lost their lives and over 10,000 were displaced as a result of seasonal monsoon flooding.
We look forward to returning to one of the most beautiful countries in the world and one which plays such a significant part in our history. We stand committed to support the people of Nepal and our friends in the Gurkha Welfare Trust should disaster strike.
Our work relies on the generosity of the public. Help us be there for the next disaster, at home or abroad.