The earthquake struck just hours before 600 guests, including the US ambassador, were to descend on Olga Murray’s house in Patan, Nepal, for her 90th birthday party.
Ms. Murray is the founder of the Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF) and was the subject of a Nov. 25, 2013, People Making a Difference article in the Monitor. She was thrown to the floor of her office by the magnitude-7.8 temblor but was unharmed.
The April 25 event triggered avalanches and mudslides and reduced many villages to rubble. A second earthquake hit May 12 in a less-populated region. The loss of life has been estimated at more than 8,500 people, making it the worst disaster in Nepal’s history, surpassing a 1934 earthquake.
Some 50 people stayed outside in the garden of Murray’s home for several days until the April 25 aftershocks abated, she said in a recent telephone interview.
“This was really a shocker,” says Murray, who describes herself as “a California girl” who is used to getting a good shaking from an earthquake from time to time. When young girls staying with her were frightened by the aftershocks she advised them to do what she does: Put the covers over your head “and go back to sleep.”
Since the first quake, NYF has opened 16 “little hospitals” to aid the injured and two day-care centers for children whose homes were destroyed (with plans to open more). The nonprofit also hopes to partner with Kathmandu University to train villagers in the construction trades to aid in the rebuilding.
Murray left Nepal April 29 for her home in California on a flight that she had booked months beforehand. She plans to return as usual in October. She “hated to leave,” she says. But “I think I’m much more useful here [in the United States] raising money [for relief efforts] than using up scarce resources over there.”