Nepal, an Arlington mother turned emergency relief coordinator

Just five days after the April 25th 7.8 magnitude earthquake, Samisha LaMeyer, an Arlington resident originally from Nepal, went back to her native country to help her family and the earthquake’s victims with emergency relief. Her story says a lot about what people can achieve when tragedy strikes.

LaMeyer, a stay-at-home mother of two, fundraised and coordinated efforts from her home in Arlington. Helped by her neighbors and family, who gathered emergency supplies, Samisha turned her sudden trip to Nepal into a transcontinental relief operation. When she landed in Nepal, her baggage loaded with supplies, she discovered an entire country in mourning, far from the effervescent place she had seen on her last trip.

Instead, LaMeyer saw devastation, and people sleeping in the streets. She felt an urgent need to distribute food and provide medical assistance in areas where no one had been yet to rescue inhabitants. Government and local agencies were (and continue to be) overwhelmed, and rampant corruption raised concerns about how and when the relief would get to people in need. Deeply affected by the situation and tapping into her personal finances, LaMeyer became the first private citizen to charter a helicopter to Gorkha, an area that she had never visited as a girl growing up in Kathmandu.

“I thought I could save all of Gorkha in four hours,” she said, but quickly realized that it would take much more concerted efforts to provide residents with what they needed. She worked with many concerned Nepalese – some providing rice and other supplies for her to transport by helicopter to remote areas, others giving her tips about places where people might need assistance. Amid this tragedy, she bonded with extraordinary people, including Captain Subek Shrestha, a pilot who died with three others on June 2 in a helicopter crash during a relief mission. “He was willing to fly where nobody would,” she said. He was animated by helping people, and LaMeyer said that what was most difficult for him was to fly over areas where people were waving for help without being able to land, because he had no supplies to offer.

Now that she is back in Arlington, Samisha LaMeyer continues to coordinate relief, using Facebook and messaging applications. Nepal has started rebuilding in the areas affected by the earthquakes and aftershocks, but there is still so much to be done before the monsoon season. That period of heavy precipitation reminds LaMeyer of New England winters in terms of the disruption and the strains on infrastructure, habitations, and people. The difference is that victims are still recovering from a disaster, which turned life upside down and drained their resources. “The people of Nepal are resilient,” she said. Although she plans to focus her efforts on the empowerment of women in Nepal, she urges us not to forget her people.

To donate in support of LaMeyer’s efforts, please go to http://tinyurl.com/netsfornepal or contact her at samishaj@gmail.com and via Facebook at www.facebook.com/samishaj

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June 11, 2015