Aftermath of Nepal’s earthquake: SFU connections

Anish Pokhrel
Anish Pokhrel

SIMON Fraser University faculty researchers and students with ties to Nepal are among those dealing with the ongoing tragedy following the weekend’s devastating earthquake. Among them:


* Anish Pokhrel, a master’s student in Mechatronics Systems Engineering at SFU’s Surrey campus, describes feeling helpless as he worked to make contact with members of his family in Nepal, now living in a communal tent with other neighbors, in the hours after the quake. He is staying connected with them daily as aftershocks continue to pummel the region.

Meanwhile he is hopeful his sister and brother-in-law can follow through with their plans to settle in Canada. The pair were scheduled to fly out May 8 to start their new lives in B.C. Pokhrel, who left Nepal to do his undergraduate degree in Wisconsin in 2008, is in his second semester at SFU, focusing on fuel cell research. The 25-year-old visited home last June before starting his graduate program, which has included stints at Ballard Power Systems.

He is helping to organize students from various post-secondary institutions to attend a candlelight vigil at the Vancouver Art Gallery Wednesday night and will continue to raise awareness of his country’s plight.


* Kevin Teichroeb, a senior video producer in SFU’s Creative Studio, can attest to the fact that when a natural disaster on the scale of Nepal’s earthquake occurs, its impact is felt worldwide. Like others with family and friends directly affected by the Nepalese disaster, Teichroeb has a 20-year-old daughter there. Emilie was on a cultural exchange program between a school in Telemark, Norway, where she’s a student, and an orphanage in Pasthali, Nepal, where she was volunteer teaching, when the earthquake struck.

Emilie’s father, who is in regular contact with her through social media, can discuss her relief that she and everyone at the orphanage have survived, but conflicted feelings over the children not being able to escape. She and other students have made it to Kathmandu.

Teichroeb says he and his daughter are consumed with wanting to help shelter the orphanage’s 43 now homeless children and fundraise to help rebuild their home. “We’re hoping that there is commitment by aid agencies, governments, and the public beyond the immediate crisis phase so that some normalcy can be restored to these people’s lives. The poverty in Nepal is significant and we have the money to share. The kids in the orphanage have really touched my heart through my daughter’s commitment.”


* Bicram Rijal, a PhD student in anthropology, is in the midst of a research project aimed at improving sanitation in Nepal, and was about to leave to start his field research May 1. The country had been on track to meet new sanitation goals by 2017. He still plans on returning to start the work on May 15, but is uncertain how that will go. Both he and his wife have connected with their families but have been “greatly impacted” by news coverage.

Rijal is also keeping in close touch with half a dozen Nepalese students at SFU who hope to raise further awareness of the tragedy through events that include an earthquake fundraiser at Vancouver’s Café Kathmandu on Thursday.


* SFU socio-cultural anthropologist Stacy Pigg says the immediate focus in the wake of the Nepal earthquake is on encouraging people to donate as aid organizations work to help Nepalese communities, particularly given reports now coming from more rural areas. Pigg has 25 years of research experience in Nepal and lived in a remote village in far eastern Nepal in the 1980s, where she learned how modernization affected health care experience. She later studied the effects of the sudden influx of donor funding on AIDS prevention initiatives and the messaging surrounding it.