Gators who give

Gators who give

Two students spent their summer people in Nepal rebuild after an earthquake

By Sam Burroughs

The 4×4 sports utility vehicle wound its way around the mountains of Nepal. Inside, Rosha Poudyal and Stephen Chrzanowski crammed in with seven other people, all with the same goal — to bring aid to villages affected by a deadly earthquake in April.

In April, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal about 40 miles east of its capital, Kathmandu, killing 9,000 people and injuring thousands more.

Chrzanowski, an M.D./Ph.D. student, and Poudyal, a College of Medicine graduate student studying biochemistry and molecular biology, flew to Nepal in June to help communities rebuild after the earthquakes. A native of Nepal, Poudyal coordinated the trip.

“When the earthquake happened, we just decided to pack our bags and get as much help as we could here and then take it over to Nepal,” Poudyal said.

UF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Clinical Research Center donated medical supplies, which the students brought to Nepal.

“Without even asking questions, they said ‘We’d like to help out, and we can give you supplies if you need them.’ The CRC nurses were really a lot of help,” Chrzanowski said.

IV kits and blood collection vials filled Poudyal and Chrzanowski’s suitcases as they packed to leave for Nepal.

With two cases full of medical supplies checked as baggage, Poudyal and Chrzanowski made it to Nepal to begin distributing the supplies and to provide hard labor and help where it was needed. The pair spent 26 days working in the devastated region. They donated the supplies to a health post in one of the villages.

“The health post that we did distribute them to was entirely supported by external contributors so it was nonprofit,” Chrzanowski said. “The hospital they have looks like a bunch of scattered buildings, chickens running through, cows on the campus. But it was really quite impressive what they are able to do with what they had. They had ultrasound machines, surgery suites … We were pretty happy being able to help them out.”

Through a small fundraiser, the pair was able to raise over $6,700 to support their work.
“With the fundraiser Rosha put together, we raised those funds specifically to help rebuild a school that had been destroyed,” Chrzanowski said.

Chrzanowski and Poudyal helped rebuild three classrooms for a school in the Harmi village of the Gorkha district. In addition to helping rebuild a school, the students also helped distribute temporary shelter materials.

“We were up by 4 or 5 in the morning and we were working until almost midnight because we would have to give out zinc (metal) sheets and keep track of everything and make sure every household got the required number to build a temporary shelter,” Poudyal said.

Poudyal and Chrzanowski worked with the IMPACT Nepal Foundation to provide temporary shelter materials to 450 homes.

“After giving out the materials, you basically have 10 to 15 households in one group and you pick a group leader and you show the leader how to make the houses,” Poudyal said. “If need be, for the future, they knew how to do it instead of having to wait on someone to go and build the houses for them.”

Poudyal’s family suffered only minor effects from the earthquake, she said.

“The place where my family is from is a little bit of an old settlement so, from my understanding, the soil had been pushed so much by concrete buildings over the years that it wasn’t as impacted as other parts of the city,” she said.

Chrzanowski and Poudyal both feel humbled by what they saw in Nepal and are eager to help in the future.

“So many people at UF helped and contributed to help out with the earthquake relief,” Chrzanowski said. “We went over there in person, but it was a much bigger team effort than just the two of us going over there.

“And we got her family some gifts so there are people running around with University of Florida stuff in Kathmandu,” he added. “The Gator Nation is really everywhere.”