On April 25th 2015 Nepal was hit by a catastrophic earthquake from which it is still recovering. We at Musa Masala want to take a moment to think of everyone effected by the earthquake and its aftermath. The work continues and we send our admiration to the strong and beautiful people of Nepal. Your courage is an inspiration to all of us.
Speaking of inspiration, The Help Nepal Appeal creator, Jody Dontje, is a true inspiration and a role model for people young and old. She started her project after the quake and has been a energy source, lighting others up everywhere she goes since. She stepped up when she saw a need that she could fulfill.
Jody recently did a TEDx Talk in Birgunj, Nepal. You can also see a great piece on her at Fundmycharitywork.com. Today we also wish her a happy birthday! We at Musa Masala are so happy to share this interview with Jody about The Help Nepal Appeal and her journey. Dhanyabad, namaste.
Tell us about the genesis of The Help Nepal Appeal.
Growing up, I had a hard time finding my identity. Due to financial difficulty, my family moved 16 times around Australia before I turned 18. This led me to feel immensely disempowered; I didn’t know where I fit into society. Not only this, but being half Chinese and half Dutch, I was subjected to racism and bullying, which made me feel very ashamed of who I was.
It wasn’t until I started University and immersed myself in volunteering that I began to overcome my identity issues. Eventually, I met a young lady who was organizing a volunteer trip to Nepal. She saw the dedication I gave to helping others and approached me with the opportunity. I never wanted to travel when I was undergoing my identity issues, but when she asked me, it was like everything had led to that question. Within a few hours, I said yes.
Helping in Nepal for the first time in 2014 completely transformed my life. There are moments in life where you find true reason, true happiness and true identity. This was my life-changing moment.”
When I walked into that loving school community each day, nothing else in the world mattered. I had never felt deeper happiness than that of helping to empower others in need in underprivileged communities. I left Nepal knowing I would return one day. I knew it had changed my life, but I didn’t realise to what extent.
I would never have been able to predict that 4 months later, I would start a not-for-profit charity. On the 25th of April 2015, which happened to be on my birthday, devastating earthquakes struck Nepal. My heart sunk and my mind raced as I was exposed to personal stories, with heartbreaking images and footage keeping me awake at night. Though I was already busy with full-time study, volunteering and work, I knew I had to do something. With the support of the community, I started The Help Nepal Appeal. The awareness, belief and love of THNA grew and grew, and eventually we were able to fundraise over $11,000 in 7 months and help thousands of Nepali earthquake survivors.
What work does the foundation do now?
The Help Nepal Appeal is about empowerment. We seek to enable individuals, families and communities to become independent, and not dependent on our help. To create sustainable programs that enable long-term growth, with a low-cost high impact approach. We are completely not-for-profit, so no administration fees are taken out of donations, and we organize international volunteer programs for no charge. Furthermore, we have become ever more passionate about sharing via our social media avenues, to be storytellers that empower people from around the world, to share the power of compassionate and giving.
Can you tell us about your volunteers? How do you find them and how they are placed to help?
So far, we have had volunteers from Australia, The Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Austria, Malaysia, America, United Kingdom and Switzerland. Most of our volunteers are from word of mouth or from our powerful social media avenues. In fact, the majority of volunteers have come across our transparent works via Instagram.
We differ from other charities in that we have an immensely personal approach to organizing international volunteer programs. We tailor the program to fit the unique passions, skills, knowledge and time availability of the Valuable Volunteer. Whether the volunteer prefers a rural location, homestays, hotels or local to Kathmandu City, we take their preferences into consideration when organizing their opportunity to help. We book and organize the whole flexible itinerary for volunteers and we do not charge a cent for this. The volunteers simply pay for themselves as they go directly to the hotels, etc.
What seems to be the major issue you are tackling with The Help Nepal Appeal?
The new focus is bridging the gaps in society—whether that is bridging the gap between special needs children to be socially accepted or between a mother who needs work to gaining vocational training. THNA has empowered thousands of Nepali people by providing sustainable approached programs, including student leadership councils that are transforming schools both physically and culturally, changing the lives of many. We seek to make others more independent, capable, able and confident individuals that can flourish in society.
Where do you see The Help Nepal Appeal over the next few years, and how can someone help?
My growing team and I are forever thankful for the support from others, because what we have become today would not have been possible without it. We are also extremely excited to announce our new THNA YouTube Channel, which we aim to grow and grow over the next few years so more people can be empowered by our stories and join our journey.
People can help and become involved in many ways, including running a fundraiser, becoming a volunteer member, arranging for donation tins to be distrubted in your area or inviting friends to like and share our Facebook page, follow us on Instagram and spread the word about our website. You can also make a donation here: www.thehelpnepalappeal.com/projects.