A former Ketton resident now living in Nepal is among hundreds of people in the disaster-struck country trying to help others living in remote areas.
Tour guide and software developer Peter Francon was in his adopted home city of Kathmandu when the first of two devastating earthquakes hit on Saturday last week.
The 7.8-magnitude quake and subsequent aftershocks caused huge damage to the capital city, but it was in Nepal’s rural areas where the disaster had the worst effect.
Despite Peter and his family now having to live in a makeshift shelter in a Danish restaurant, he and many others are now putting all of their efforts into helping those most in need.
Speaking on Wednesday to the Mercury via Skype, after a long and exhausting trip out to the countryside to take supplies to people living there, Peter described the scene in the city.
“The houses are totally broken,” he said. “I expect when we go out tomorrow we will see modern stone houses that are just piles of rubble. People will be under meagre shelters.”
Since the earthquake hit, people in Kathmandu have taken it upon themselves to put together relief projects, taking food, water, shelter and sanitation to rural areas. People like Peter have worked hard to get hold of aid money coming into Nepal to make sure it is used to help the people most in need.
“Some Nepali girls have raised enough money to buy 1,500 sacks of rice,” he said. “We are allocating about 400g to 500g portions. But on the way out to our destination we find people who are very hungry. You have to press on through that situation.”
Many of the villages in rural Nepal are several hours away from a road. That, combined with the damage to the country’s highway network, means it is difficult to reach isolated communities.
Peter said: “We are expecting to find absolute devastation. There are very poorly and injured people. They have fractures and deep cuts. One person had chicken pox.
“We do have a standard first aid pack with 20kg of assorted medicine.
“What people need is cover. They might have crops and cooking pots but they need strength to rebuild villages.”
Peter went into more detail in a blog post on the website of the tour firm he works for, freespiritadventure.com.
Describing a trip made on Sunday, he wrote: “After early morning tea we set off. The devastation was similar to that which was seen on the Tipni road three days earlier. Virtually every house was a pile of stones or dangerously uninhabitable. And then a road block, trees laid across the road blocked our passage.
“Villagers were hungry, frightened. They weren’t inclined to sit and watch two trucks laden with rice, pass them by. Local boys suggested ‘Let’s take the rice!’ Hands slipping under the truck tarpaulins. But there was no violence, no stealing and we were able to proceed.
“We had no idea how many people ahead had not yet received aid. We wanted to reach Kunchok and evaluate the situation from there, to try and ensure fair distribution of rice, chiura (beaten rice), dal, simple tents we’d had manufactured, rope, buckets, and medical aid. Kunchok is based around a large open space on a ridge, it had no water supply.”
On that trip Peter and his team delivered about 12,000 meals to rural communities. The food will go some way towards helping people regain their strength.
He wrote: “But apart from rice what villagers need are sturdy tents and tarpaulins.
“The rainy season is only four weeks or so away. And with no building materials coming in reconstruction of habitable homes is a distant prospect.”
The Nepal earthquake has to date killed more than 7,000 people, and injured twice as many.
The UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee, formed of 12 charities, has said immediate action is needed to tackle the problem of people living without shelter or sanitation.
A spokesman said there had already been reports of diarrhoea outbreaks and chest infections.
The committee’s appeal has so far raised £33m from public donations. The Government has matched the first £5m of donations, bringing the total to £38m, and committed a further £17.8m in humanitarian aid.
More than 4,000 aid workers from around the world have been working alongside the Nepali people with relief and rescue operations.
But Peter is concerned some of that money may never make it to those in need, and has appealed through social media for people to send money directly to help him and his team deliver aid.
Anyone who wants to help can transfer money through PayPal, using Peter’s address, Peter@freespiritadventure.com, and the reference #NepalEarthquake.
You can keep up to date with Peter’s relief efforts through his Twitter account, @peterfrancon.