When the first of two devastating earthquakes hit Nepal three months ago, life in the country would never be the same. An estimated 8,600 lives were lost, 500,000 homes destroyed and 2.8 million people were left needing aid after the two earthquakes ripped through the Himalayan country. Nearly a million children remain out of school with no classrooms to teach them in.
Binod Chaudhary is Nepal’s only billionaire and he has put his businesses on hold while he and his staff dedicate time and resources to on-the-ground relief, distributing supplies and rebuilding homes. Through his foundation he has spent US$2.8 million on relief efforts so far and pledged a total US$12.5 million, making him the most generous individual donor to date in relation to Nepal.
Chaudhary is well placed to donate food as the founder of South Asia’s largest ready-to-eat noodle producer, Wai Wai Noodles, which he runs in conjunction with his Singapore-based conglomerate Cinnovation. It started when as a young man he spotted an opportunity to produce noodles from his family’s biscuit factory just to make use of excess flour. Today, Wai Wai Noodles occupies two percent of global market share and produces billions of packets a year. Thousands of packets have been distributed to those in need over the past three months.
He also urged rich friends to help, including Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, who pledged to build 1,000 transitional shelters.
Chaudhary is in the process of reconstructing 100 primary schools and 1,000 transitional homes in the areas most affected by the earthquake in Nepal. He wants to build another 9,000 homes with the help of a partner organisation. But he fears time is running out — the monsoon season is around the corner and, without shelter, Nepal’s homeless will be left seriously vulnerable. He is urging NGOs and private individuals to partner with the Chaudhary Foundation to help rebuild the country.
Here, he tells his story.
“I was with two of my sons in the Chitwan area, inspecting a new project for Taj Hotels, when the first earthquake struck. Chitwan is 90km away from the epicentre but it was still very strong. The first thing was to try to get through to family members and staff by phones. We managed to make contact and although the headquarters in Kathmandu had sustained damage, no one was killed.
“Planes were grounded, helicopters were in use and roads were blocked with landslides, so we were trapped. We sent a scout on a motorbike to find a way through and then we drove in. It was a mess. I knew that the first priority would be medical supplies, food and water. At the same time, our 500 staff had to be relocated as the building was damaged, so initially we provided immediate relief through third parties, including Pricewaterhousecoopers’ India Foundation and SEEDs India. After three days the Chaudhary Foundation found its feet and all of our middle and top management were sent out to distribute water, medical supplies, blankets and food, from 6am throughout the day. We dispersed thousands of packs of Wai Wai noodles.
“We have now moved onto the third phase of rescue efforts: rebuilding. The Chaudhary Foundation is reconstructing 1,000 transitional homes, each taking around eight days to construct, and 100 community primary schools in affected areas such as Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Kavre. We want to build 10,000 in total. Everyone is feeling the pressure as the monsoon season is approaching in July, and people need to have a roof over their heads before, otherwise the situation could escalate seriously.
“It has been quite intense with around 300 aftershocks and tremors. Tourism — Nepal’s largest industry — has plummeted. But our biggest concern right now is getting shelter for the homeless. We are working to engage other NGOs and non-profits, as well as private individuals to do as much as they can. Nepal is running out of time. The government has been criticised in the press for not acting fast enough. It is a coalition so it can take a long time for a decision, as there is much bureaucracy. But homes can’t wait, schools can’t wait. This is where the private sector such as ourselves come in. We can ensure resources are optimised with an immediate on-the-ground response. What we have done so far is just the tip of the iceberg. Our community needs to build eight million homes and thousands of schools. And we need help.”
For more information on how to help, contact www.chaudharyfoundation.org or call +977-1-5108127, extension 854.