Oct 25, 2015

The People You Meet: The Chaudhary Foundation & Encouraging Private Sector Investment to Rebuild Nepal...

"We rise by lifting others." 
~ Robert Ingersoll (American lawyer & political leader)

Immediately after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocked central Nepal on April 25th, Nepali businessman Binod Chaudhary rushed from Chitwan National Park to back to Kathmandu.  As the dust from the earthquake settled, the full devastation of the quake became apparent. The death toll rose steadily day by day to reach nearly 9,000 people with over 25,000 people injured. According to UN estimates, 8 million people — more than one quarter of Nepal's population — were affected by the disaster.

In addition to being a businessman and one of the 1,500 richest people in theworld, Binod Chaudhary is also a proud Nepali who recognised that now, more than ever, Nepal needed his support. Eight schools operated by one of his businesses were turned into shelters and a large-scale campaign was kicked off to distribute his company’s famed Wai Wai instant noodles and other food, as well as juice, water and medical supplies.

Deeply affected by the earthquake and seeing first-hand its devastating impact, Binod committed to supporting the rebuilding of 10,000 homes and 100 schools across the country.  Through his Foundation, $2.5 million was pledged to restore schools and homes destroyed or damaged by the quake. Since that day, through its global network of businesses, the Chaudhary family have worked tirelessly to make the Foundation a hub for private-sector donations, achieving traction and results where the government, IGOs and NGOs have struggled or failed. The Foundation has already been successful in building an initial 1,000 transitional bamboo-and-plaster homes and has committed to working with partners and donors globally to construct another 9,000.

Binod’s localised approach and promise of transparency has drawn pledges from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and South Korean company LG Electronics, SEEDS India, Tata Group and the PwC Foundation. The Foundation maintains an open appeal for increased private sector support in helping to provide homes and schools to the vulnerable.

“Our hope is that very quickly we’ll be able to find the right partners who will support us in doing jointly the 10,000-home target that we’ve set for ourselves, and hopefully much more than 100 schools that we’re planning to restore.”

I was introduced to the Chaudhary Family at a Nepal Round Table Discussion hosted by global professional services firm, PwC. We met to discuss ways in which the private sector working with governments, IGOs, and NGOs could provide resources to support the Foundation’s resilience and rebuilding efforts.  Having been in Nepal during the April and May earthquakes and having seen the scale and complexity of the relief and rebuilding efforts required, I was inspired by his approach where one organised locally driven effort can be more effective than many well-intentioned disparate efforts.

I had the opportunity to visit one of the rebuilt communities in Nepal earlier this month. I confess, I approached the visit with mixed feelings fuelled by the negative reports in the media about the Nepal government’s floundering reconstruction efforts amid political disturbances, partisan fighting and stories of $4.1 billion in aid unaccounted for.

But what I found was incredibly uplifting. Through their extensive network in-country and relationships with businesses around the world, The Chaudhary Foundation have been successful in helping to build what are called “transitional shelters” that cost $750 each. The shelters reflect a quake-resistant design with bamboo sticks embedded a few feet into the ground.  The beauty of the approach is that it’s both simple and scalable.

The Chaudhary Foundation team attribute their success in being on-the ground with first hand communication and engagement with local communities. They work with local people to identify those most in need, including single women or those who have no means of earning a living. Building materials are delivered and building experts train and help local people to build their homes, closely supervising the tasks of creating bamboo grids for a sturdier foundation and plastering the walls for better protection from hot summers, wet monsoons and cold winters.

Following a tour of his modest home, one of the residents of a ‘transitional shelter’ village just outside of Bhaktapur, proudly told me that his structure will last at least five years, giving him and his family time to make arrangements for more permanent residences without having to take loans or cut back on food. Holding his baby daughter in his arms he beamed, “I am so proud and happy with my new home.” His was one of the biggest smiles that saw during my visit to the country and one that I’ll not soon forget.

No country, community, government or company can ‘go it alone.’  What becomes clear from conversations with organisations working to deliver change in Nepal is that in today’s complex, hyper-linked environments and communities, no single entity – government, public or private – possesses all of the necessary powers, resources, or expertise to assure resilience against natural disasters and catastrophic events – be it earthquakes, floods, tornados or tsunamis. Key ingredients to effective solutions include collaborative and organised approaches, leveraging the capabilities and capacity of stakeholders from government, the private sector, local communities and society as a whole. As highlighted by The Chaudhary Foundation’s efforts in Nepal, both short term and long term, as a global community, we’re all going to have to work together with everyone’s best interest in mind to respond quickly and efficiently to current challenges and to prevent such disasters from happening again in the future.


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