Naomi Hochberg


Nepali people are some of the most optimistic, spiritual and welcoming I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I was treated like family as soon as I arrived in their country so to see such wide spread devastation and despair made me want to do as much as I could to help.

Location: New York, New York

Profession: Research Analyst,  Ipsos

Twitter: @naomihochberg

What is Kids of Kathmandu?:

Kids of Kathmandu is a non-profit organization that utilizes photography and the arts to raise awareness about the needs of orphans in Kathmandu, Nepal. Their goal is to raise funds in order to provide a stable financial foundation for the children from which they can grow through funding for education, food, shelter and immunizations. With these very basic needs covered, Kids of Kathmandu aims to provide a sense of safety and encouragement for the children so that they can fully realize their potential in the rapidly changing environment of Nepal.

What has been your response to the earthquake in Nepal?

Sadness. Nepali people are some of the most optimistic, spiritual and welcoming I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I was treated like family as soon as I arrived in their country so to see such wide spread devastation and despair made me want to do as much as I could to help.

I was also eager to learn whether everyone I met during my travels to Nepal was safe. I spent most of my time in the town of Bhaktapur, which is several miles away from Kathmandu, and largely omitted from media reports. Facebook turned out to be the best way to learn the extent of the damage. I saw many people “checked-in” that they were safe through Facebook, and of course, Kids of Kathmandu shared an immediate response and provided regular updates about each child living in the orphanage and the needs for recovery.

But the pit in my stomach remained. This earthquake had already been predicted, and yet, proper precautions were never taken. When I visited the orphanage two years ago, there were already talks about earthquake safety kits, with potential death tolls of 5,000 and counting. It’s unsettling to know that the devastation this earthquake caused could have been avoided.

Why did you decide to support Kids of Kathmandu in response to the earthquake?:

I decided to support Kids of Kathmandu in response to the earthquake for two reasons. First, I have a personal connection to these kids. These 49 boys and girls are some of the happiest, most creative and caring children I have ever met. They consider themselves brothers and sisters and behave very much in that capacity. They laugh and fight, but most of all they love one another. From the line of girls combing each other’s hair each morning, to the older boys diligently ensuring their younger peers brush their teeth at night, this love is evident. These children want nothing more than to learn and grow, and I felt compelled to help in any way possible to ensure their lives were disrupted by this tragedy as little as possible.

Secondly, I trusted where my money was going. Huge natural disaster emergency response organizations, such as The Red Cross are vital in wide-spread disasters, but I wanted my donation to remain local. When this earthquake struck, KOK was immediately engaged in talks with trusted doctors and emergency response connections. After 48 hours of fundraising, all donors and supporters were updated that the first $10,000 was already being deployed to Nepal with the Citta medical team, consisting of Citta Founder Michael Daube, Nurse Practitioner Kat Bogacz and Dr. Christopher Bailey, all veterans of work in Nepal. Once on the ground, they will be meeting Dr. Dikshanta Prasai and Dr. Sanjay Bhattachan, good friends and advisors to KOK. These doctors have provided a list of all the medical needs the fundraised money will support, such as medical tents (triage), numerous drugs, water purification devices, blankets and other medical needs the team sees fit.

The second $10,000 funded a helicopter relief mission to provide basic survival needs and bring doctors to destroyed villages which have thus far not received any help at all. Since the morning of the earthquake, KOK has raised over $65,000 and counting, and will continue to highlight where each and every dollar is going.

How did you get involved with the organization?:

In college, I wanted to combine my education in arts and communications with my growing passion for start-up non-profits. Kids of Kathmandu was a perfect combination of both areas. When I met the founders, Jami Saunders and Andrew Raible, I was impressed by their level of passion for the cause and I was excited to work with them. I interned with KOK in the fall of 2011 which was truly a grassroots effort. At the time, our office was located in Jami and Andrew’s apartment in the Financial District of Manhattan. Interns were huddled around our laptops and lunch was eaten on the building’s roof deck. It was a family-like experience where everyone was able to make a huge impact, even interns. Jami, a photographer, and Andrew, a furniture designer, served as strong leaders who offered a wonderful combination creative perspective and infinite optimism.

What was your experience like when traveling to Nepal?:

The streets in Kathmandu are constantly bustling with motorcycles, bicycles, cars and people. So many people! Kathmandu is beautiful and I spent much of my time exploring the city, checking out a local artisan food market, and enjoying outdoor dining spaces. Bhaktapur, however, with its quieter streets and friendly residents, was a breath of fresh air.

My days were spent rising just after sunrise to pick up a few dozen bananas (a special treat the kids usually only received from visitors) for the children. I would then head over to the orphanage, a multi-level concrete home with one girls’ bedroom, one boys’ bedroom, a study room, a ping-pong room, kitchen, dining room, and the parent’s room, for those who take care of all the children. The kids sleep in metal bunk beds, reminiscent of summer camp. Colorful murals are painted over all the walls of the play area and a Hindu shrine is set up in the center of the home for daily prayers. Mornings are spent dressing for school, brushing hair, saying prayers, finishing homework and eating breakfast. I walked the kids to school every morning, through a farm field, down the road and into the play grounds in front of the school.

When the kids were in school, I explored Bhaktapur, which is home to has many preserved temples and religious squares filled with tourists, shop keepers and worshippers. Goats, holy cows and dogs roam the streets. The town is filled with butchers preparing goat heads for morning sacrifice and the rest of the body for lunch and dinner, while dogs wait patiently for scraps. Walking through the streets of Bhaktapur is like walking the streets of your small hometown. Locals see you join to learn why you are there, where you came from, and how long you’re staying; before offering a kind goodbye when your paths ultimately split.

The food of Nepal is also something that will always stay with me. Their yogurt curd, Nepali tea, and curries are all things I miss. For such little money, one can feast like a king.

How can others help the disaster response efforts in Nepal?:

This earthquake was catastrophic, killing over 5,000 people, injuring more than 10,000, and displacing millions. Any contribution will be of use and help to Nepal on its long road to recovery. Find an organization you trust that will put your donation to good use and tell people about it! The worst, and easiest thing that can happen to Nepal is for the rest of the world to forget about them. Please join me in ensuring that will not be the case. If conversation about the well-being of this beautiful country continues, the relief aid will flourish, and so will its people. Namaste.


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Lauren Hancock

About

Lauren Hancock is a development professional. Based in Washington D.C., she has experience in higher education development. She’s a StartingBloc Fellow. Laura is passionate about education and immigration. She is a recent graduate of Barnard College.


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