Grand County activist with ties to Nepal appeals for quake relief | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County activist with ties to Nepal appeals for quake relief

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

Susanne Jalbert, Ph.D., first traveled to Nepal in the late 1980s.

An avid outdoorswoman, Jalbert was drawn to the mountainous country on a trekking trip.

Her trip around famed Himalayan peak Makalu was stymied by poor weather, as were most trekkers across the region, but Jalbert said the experienced sparked a lifelong bond with the country and its people.

"I went for the trekking, and I stayed for the people," she said.

“Even before the Maoists they didn’t have the capacity to deal with this kind of emergency. It’s just too colossal. It’s way outside their reach.”Susanne JalbertInternational activist

An internationally renowned activist, Jalbert has been involved in the founding of five women-centered organizations in Nepal since she first visited the country.

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Her love for the mountains brought her consulting business to Winter Park, though she's still heavily involved in her projects in Nepal and visits regularly.

So what motivates her to invest so much time and effort into Nepal? It's a simple answer.

"It's the people themselves," she said. "It's their spirit and their openness and love. They're just quite pure and wonderful, and the drivers behind (the programs) of course are poverty. The poverty is extraordinary."

Nepal is currently one of the poorest countries in the world.

In 2010, approximately 25 percent of Nepal's population, around 6.7 million people, was living at or below the national poverty line, according to data from the World Bank.

"I'm an economic activist, so my whole shtick in life is economic empowerment," Jalbert said. "Clearly Nepal was a place that needed that type of assistance."

On Saturday, April 25, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck Nepal, causing widespread destruction.

The death toll had surpassed 4,600 as of Tuesday afternoon as was expected to climb.

Jalbert said all of her Nepali friends, colleagues and godchildren are safe.

She's been able to track them through a Facebook program called "Safety Check," which allows people in disaster areas to indicate that they're safe.

But for a government still reeling from years spent battling a Maoist insurgency in a protracted civil war, this is an unmanageable crisis, Jalbert said.

"Even before the Maoists they didn't have the capacity to deal with this kind of emergency," she said. "It's just too colossal. It's way outside their reach. It's so large that even their neighbors like Pakistan are sending assistance in."

The five organizations of which Jalbert is a founder and supporter focus on empowering women.

Often, in a country where life is a struggle for all, women are the most disenfranchised group, Jalbert said.

A 2010/2011 internally conduct living standards survey found that 70 percent of adult males had ever attended school, while only 43 percent of adult females had ever attended school.

"Throw a crisis on top of it and (women) are really marginalized," Jalbert said.

Disasters disproportionately affect women and children, which is why Jalbert asks that donations be made to the Global Fund for Women, which Jalbert has been involved with since its inception in 1986.

Donating will help furnish women in Nepal with sanitary supplies, food for children as well as other crucial items and services.

Because the fund currently has a network of volunteers on the ground in Nepal, 100 percent of the funds go toward helping women in the crisis area, Jalbert said.

"I trust Global Fund for Women," she said. "I so respect their ability to deploy resources responsibly."

To donate, visit http://globalfundforwomen.org/15nepal.

Donations can also be made to Dhaka Weaves, an organization founded by Jalbert that seeks to attain economic equity for women weavers in Nepal. Donations to Dhaka Weaves will also go toward the Global Fund for Women's earthquake relief in Nepal.

To donate, visit http://dhakaweaves.org.

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