Philanthropy originates from many different places; it can be driven by intellectual understanding, moral guidance, faith, and of course personal experience. Sophie Maliphant, a designer who works with Global Philanthropic, was in Nepal during the devastating earthquake in April this year, and her experience and the aftermath has led her to take direct action.
Today, she shares her inspiring story and the unexpected journey it has taken her on…
“I was in Nepal on 25th April this year, the day the first of two destructive earthquakes hit the country. My boyfriend and I were in Pokhara, a city to the west of the epicentre, as part of a year long trip around Asia. This terrifying experience motivated me to use my skills as a graphic designer to illustrate and write a book, The Country That Shook, in the hope that it will help the people of this beautiful country.
The earthquake itself was surreal, it seems like a dream now. It felt like I was suddenly catapulted onto a train, jolting and shaking off the rails, and the sound was coming from deep below the ground, like a giant’s belly rumbling.
We were staying in a guesthouse just outside of Pokhara next to Phewa lake. Fortunately Pokhara itself wasn’t damaged, but dust was flying off of the roof of the guesthouse and the tin metal roof was rattling. All of the guests and the Nepalese family who own the place ran out to the garden and huddled together on the grass, not quite knowing what to do; none of us had ever experienced anything like this before.
We had no idea how damaging it had been as after the first big shake it settled down pretty quickly. The wifi at the guesthouse had been knocked out so we had no connection to the outside world. It wasn’t until later on in the day when we went into the town that we received all the messages from our friends and family and saw the reports on the news, which was when we started to understand how bad things were in the areas to the east of us.
We spent a week in Pokhara afterwards as it was difficult to find out if the roads were passable to India or Kathmandu, and whether flights were flying out of the only international airport which was jammed with aid and damaged in the quake. In any case, we had no idea whether India would let us in and the Indian embassy in Kathmandu had apparently also been damaged. The hardest thing was the after shocks; the ground was continuously shaking for the entire week. We tried to sleep outside amongst the mosquitoes, fully clothed, in sleeping bags in fear that there would be another big shake that would collapse the buildings. One night we braved sleeping inside, however there was a big aftershock at around 5am that had us scrambling out to the grass again.
It took a day or two for aid operations to kick in, and they were all organised by local people; it was too soon for the big charities to be present and they would be focussing on Kathmandu as the worst hit area. Our guesthouse owner was very active, coordinating supplies into a private jeep which he and his friends drove to Gorkha district, one of the worst hit areas, to assess the damage and provide basic necessities. The main things required in Pokhara seemed to be help to pack up supplies into boxes to distribute to badly affected villages and donations of warm clothing, tents and sleeping bags. A few times we tried to help with packing but our position, 45 minutes outside the city, meant that we never quite made it in time. In our sleep-deprived, scared state I’m not sure we would have been of much use.
It was on the bus journey back to India, a week later, that I decided I wanted to use my expertise to raise money for the long-term rebuild, having felt pretty useless while we were in the country. The idea of writing and illustrating a short story developed and came to life as I continued my diverted journey, influenced by Sri Lanka, India, Japan, South Korea, China and, of course, Nepal.
Most of the drawing was done in Japan over the few weeks in any situation that I could adapt into a drawing space; in train stations, on trains, in hotel rooms, on the beach. It’s all added to the character.
I was also adamant that I wanted to use found materials as much as possible, to make it part of the journey. I’ve used recycled printer paper from our lovely guest house owner in Allahabad, drawing pens from London and Tokyo, a calligraphy pen to write the story from Kawaguchiko by Mount Fuji. I’ve sketched on the back of maps and plane tickets, plus some beautiful Japanese fabric paper, and the illustration style has developed during my time in Sri Lanka and India, unknowingly it seems, for this purpose. So basically it’s a melting pot, a mish mash, an amalgamation of experiences, all pasted together and I hope this makes it unique.
When all the drawings were complete I decided to run a kickstarter campaign to raise money for all the production costs of a book, a t-shirt and a poster/print created from the illustrations I had done.I wanted every single penny I raised to go straight back to Nepal.
The goal was reached and to our surprise went way over the £2200 that I needed. We ended up with a total of £3075 from 106 backers, which allowed me to print 1250 books, rather than 1000, 100 T-shirts, and 150 prints that will be sold to raise money for Nepal.
The online pre-order launched on Sunday 25th October, exactly six months after the quake, and the books will also be available in selected shops around the UK from November. The website for the project is www.thecountrythatshook.com where you can buy all the products and find out more information and the latest updates”