Being sat in front of the computer as the news broke in the Indian sub-continent, however, we found ourselves unwittingly drawn into the events on the ground and updating friends and families as news came through from reputable sources. What we saw over the first week was a world of good intentions in a sea of chaos. There were reports of emergency aid held up for hours or days as Customs checked the manifests alongside stories of tons of Mayonaise somehow seen as an appropriate donation. Decisions made thousands of miles away determined not only the what, when and how aid would be despatched but even who should be picked up in helicopters. Within days there was a catalogue of reports claiming stranded trekkers were being left behind as helicopters evacuated victims according to their nationality. The good intentions of the outside world were floundering against the rocks of incompetence, misinformation and disorganisation. A lack of preparation on behalf of both Nepal and the outside world combined with the scale of the destruction and the lack of a suitable, functioning, airport resulted in a mass of people running around like blue-arse flies without a clue of what the whole picture was. In many ways it's a situation that's being replicated in the outdoor world's reaction.
In the days since the quake the outdoor world has been mobilised, and rightly so, to go to the aid of a people we've long held in a mix of awe of affection. We owe Nepal a lot, both as a nation and an industry, and we've not been slow in reacting. Unfortunately, however, there's been as much co-ordination as Bambi had on ice! In the last 4 days alone I've had 17 notifications of individual or corporate appeals all saying pretty much the same thing and all effectively fighting over the same money. It doesn't bother me if it's the Jagged Globe appeal, the Bergahus appeal, the BMC appeal, the Sherpa appeal, the Ellis Brigham appeal, an individual Just Giving page or a sponsored fund raising event. It's not the name on the appeal that matters it's where the donations are going and what they'll mean to the Nepali and Sherpa people that matters. At times it seems as though the outdoor industry is in as much of a rush to have their names associated with an appeal as they are to actually deliver what's needed.
Photo CAN: Long term Community Action Nepal project, the Gorak Shep Porter Rescue Centre
What Nepal needs is cooperation and long term planning, not a scramble to put on disparate events under an assortment of banners competing, often on the same date and time, for the same money. The outdoor industry has a great reputation for its long term projects that have been working on the ground for 20 years or more and long term projects are what is needed. While the majority of the large scale NGOs focus their attention on the heavily populated Kathmandu Valley it's heartening to see the work of organisations like Community Action Nepal, The Himalayan Trust and First Steps Himalaya reaching out to the people who give our industry so much. The people of the Everest Base Camp Trek, Annapurna, Manaslu and Makalu and the Langtang Valley are the people who put profits in the bank accounts of our trekking and summit industries and a once in a lifetime experience for hundreds of thousands of people a year. For their sakes we need a joined up strategy where instead of risking charity fatigue from a myriad of competing appeals hitting your desktop daily people join together and put momentum behind the message. 1000 people in one place saying the same thing is far more effective than 100 groups of 10 spread around our country.
BMC's Help Nepal auction is one of a multitude of fundraising events
Whether it's the BMC, Sherpa (the company) or some other body that steps forward we need some order and some organisation. We need someone to pull all these disparate appeals together and create something lasting. The rebuilding of this beautiful country will take a generation; a timescale where only those in it for the long term will have the impact that the tens of thousands of people donating are investing in. Charities only survive through exposure and a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now, when the individual Just Giving pages have long since vanished the work will still be only half done. That exposure is needed now...not a hotch potch of well meaning but confusing and conflicting messages of how one individual or another has been moved to setup a donation page or event.
To the manufacturers and retailers....this is not a competition like your day to day business. It's not about your brand name it's about the cause. To the trekking and mountaineering companies who only exist thanks to the indigenous populations of your clients destinations......You know the people, you have the contacts on the ground and you have the relationships already in place, we need you to come together and put out a united message. We need you to work together in the same way that the NGOs are working together under the DEC banner; to give the multiple little fundraisers direction, momentum and durability. To the individual.......the impulse to instantly set up a fundraiser is naturally very strong but is a myriad of conflicting messages and appeals more effective than putting your efforts behind one that already exists?