Lokesh Todi, born and raised in Kathmandu, moved home to Nepal nine months ago to be an entrepreneur. When the 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit last Saturday, he and a cousin started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help connect concerned givers with local NGOs.
“We thought we could get some supplies to local groups. Our goal was to get $20,000 — that’s a lot of money in Nepal," said Todi, a recent graduate of Yale University's M.B.A program.
Thanks to their concerned networks, including thousands of shares from Todi’s Facebook page, the campaign has now raised $120,150 — more than six times the amount they expected.
“I’m really hoping to make sure that all this money goes to right channels, and make sure that every dollar is spent properly and wisely. My goal is to help the community build back stronger and a little bit more prepared,” said Todi.
Todi is also working with Global Shapers Kathmandu, a network of young local leaders, to source and provide in-kind donations to communities devastated by the earthquake. Yesterday the group deployed more than 60 medical doctors to the worst affected areas in Sindhupalchowk District, many of which have no current access to medical care.
While he waits for the Indiegogo funds to be released, Todi is vetting local NGOs to receive the donations. On his list of priorities: committed long term presence, with a real impact on the ground.
"There’s a big amount of rebuilding that will need to happen over the next one, two, three years. We want to make sure the most vulnerable to come out of this stronger, with the resources to bounce back," he said.
Todi said his quick move to start a funding platform was motivated by his familiarity with media coverage of disasters.
“Very quickly, the attention is going to go away from Nepal — in the next 3 or 4 weeks. While we have a very captive audience, I want to make sure that the money coming is going to something earmarked for future long-term use. This is going to be a very, very long-term effort.”
In the wake of natural disaster, a compassionate impulse from others to give to those affected can be undercut by damaged or nonexistent infrastructure or little familiarity with the realities on the ground.
In this environment, local knowledge and communal trust is paramount. Global Shapers Kathmandu are one group among several in Nepal channeling entrepreneurial training and deep community-relational networks to help direct the physical and monetary resources coming in. Todi includes Oxfam, Nepal Red Cross, Save the Children, and Childreach — a local NGO he is currently working with — as good places to take donations.
Other groups, like Code for Nepal and Kathmandu Living Labs, are mapping disaster areas and needs culled from social media and previously-mapped locations of hospitals and schools, a critical resource for local and international NGOs to direct aid.
Calling the devastation from last week's earthquake “heartbreaking,” Todi is nevertheless hopeful that Nepal will rebuild well. He described visiting one village this week and seeing the people there camped out together.
“There’s a strong camaraderie, people are offering eachother help — taking shifts to cook, taking shifts to clean," he said.
"I’ve seen this aspect of community come together. I don’t expect it to all or always be like this, but I suspect this earthquake has had … that effect of bringing community together. That is why there’s hope that we can build back stronger, and find even more ways to work together.”
Catherine Woodiwiss (@chwoodiwiss) is the Associate Web Editor for Sojourners.
Image via Lokesh Todi's Facebook album, "Nepal Earthquake."