OPEN LETTER: To the President of United States of America.
Dear Mr. President,
I would like you to meet Pooja. She is a young Nepalese woman who is from a small village in district Sindhupalchowk in Nepal. Like many other hard working Nepalese men and women, she left her small village Yangri and travelled thousands of miles away to earn a living so she can provide for her family back home. Her parents died when she was a little infant. She was raised by her grandmother and other family members in her village. She was raised by the loving people of her village Yangri.
1. Pooja came to see me at Dubai airport where I had a transit on my way to KTM. She was a shy young woman who said very few words but her face could tell the story and the pain and suffering was visible as she explained how she has received information about her village being destroyed by the earthquake. She knows that her grandmother was still alive, she humbly requested me with tears in her eyes that I should try to help her villagers.
2. In the last few days I rented a helicopter and flown two missions over Sindhupalchowk supplying food, tents and Tarpal to several villages around Larkey and Manikarka. The night I was packing and ready to go back home I received her message though a friend reminding me of my commitment to her. I immediately spoke with my team, we had a long day ahead as we had arranged for a medical camp where we saw 450 patients in one day.
The first attempt to take the helicopter failed because of bad weather and rain storm.
3. The next day we took our map. Noted the location of village Yangri. I was accompanied by 72 yrs old Dr Matthew Lin an orthopedic surgeon from LA, Lance Taysom RN paramedic and EMT from Idaho , Levon James Budding a volunteer from Las Vegas and Gokul Thapa my Nepalese guide and a person I call my brother.
4. We saw multiple Indian Army Helicopters on the ground at KTM airport including US Marine choppers and Ospreys. We flew out in two helicopters to save time and take as much food and shelter with us as possible. We flew through thick clouds, poor visibility and very tight valleys looking for village Yangri. We finally landed in a beautiful valley to offload some of our crew and supplies because of the weight and to create a base for supply. Where we landed was what used to be a building but was demolished completely to the ground like a bomb must have exploded there.
5. As I took off with Gokul and Levon leaving Dr Lin and Lance behind at base. I came across sheer destruction that was visible for miles in the mountains. Several dozen villages which are truly just neighborhoods of 15-30 homes each were flattened to the ground as such someone stepped on them with a giant crusher. No sign of life was visible from air.
6. We were looking for village Yangri in tight valleys and thick clouds. We decided to land close to a few homes where we saw few people. As soon as we made a difficult and tight landing we were surrounded by a patient but worn out looks. This was a small family giving shelter to seven families altogether, we gave them some supplies & asked them where village Yangri was. I met a mother with a beautiful young child in her lap who had badly twisted her ankle. I gave her some pain medications some NSAIDs and since I had left my first aid kid at base and she had a fairly swollen ankle, I just took off my compression running socks and gave them to her to wear for her swelling. They took a few sacks of rice and Tarpal and patiently said good bye giving us direction to Yangri.
7. Yangri is a beautiful village surrounded on three sides by the river and on fourth by the mountains. As soon as I landed, I was approached by a local woman who was friendly but in a loud and firm voice with few words she thanked me for coming to her village as they have not had any food or supplies. She told me we were the first one to have landed and given them food and shelter. By this time I was surrounded by a patient but definitely suffering crowd of several dozen villagers. When I showed them the picture of Pooja and told them that she had sent me. Every eye in the crowd broke in to tears. I was told by the villagers that they are practically sitting on a ticking bomb as they are surrounded on three sides by a river and their backs are towards the mountain which has had several mudslides and after shocks. The moment that tiny rope bridge falls they will be completely disconnected from the rest of the world waiting for either a mud slide or starvation and exposure to kill them all. They asked me to go back and tell the world their story so they are not forgotten. They requested to be evacuated. They are living on unstable grounds and unstable shelter.
8. By this time I had sent the chopper back to get me more food and shelter. I was told by one villager that 25 families had escaped from falling rocks and mudslides, to the top of the mountain 5km away, and were stranded there with no food and supplies. I took this villager with me in the chopper along with Gokul Dai and went looking for those families. When we found them there was no place to land our chopper safely, at that point Gokul and I made a risky decision to open the chopper door while hovering 30 feet off the ground and just dropping the food and shelter from the sky. We fought wind, rain and rotars noise.
We all risked our lives including our amazing pilot to get them a few days worth of food.
9. Mr. President this village is exactly 10-15 mins flight time from where several US Marine choppers and Ospreys are standing on the ground at KTM airport. I urge you for the sake of Humanity to act quickly and save the people of Yangri village.
I have just but literary put a band aid on a bleeding jugular with my effort.
I made one promise to the villagers of Yangri that I may not be able to evacuate them or return but I surely will try my best and tell the world their story. So the dead are not forgotten and the living can be rescued!
I leave for home today but my heart and my soul was left in Yangri, I did fulfill my promise to the shy little girl Pooja that I will go and check on her people. Sadly I am bringing only more bad news to her from the villagers who raised her as her parents.
Fahim Rahim, MD FASN
A humble citizen of Humanity.
Dear world, people of Yangri and several dozen villages like them, don’t need your doctors, don’t need your nurses, don’t need your money. They just need your voice that needs to be loud and clear. “They are the blood of Nepal and they can not be forgotten”