HAND shifts focus from recovering bodies to saving babies


From Brian Smith, Executive Director of HAND


I am so proud of my sister Amber. She set off on her first mission today to save the babies. Our HAND baby mission is in partnership with Midwifery Society of Nepal and Global Orphan Prevention. Amber is our labor and delivery nurse from HAND.

Laxmi called me last night and said “can Amber be a part of our team going to the remote mountain region of Nuwakot tomorrow?” I said “she can’t wait to go!”
We arrived at 8:20am and loaded the trucks with baby supplies from UNICEF. She climbed right into the back of the truck with three Nepali nurses. 

The mission is to deploy 3 Nepali nurses each, into 4 remote regions devastated by the quakes for the next three months to deliver all of the babies that are born during the monsoon season when they are often cut off from the outside world. Amber will be setting up the nurses and doing some last minute training as they unpack their supplies. It is a 12 hour narrow mountain drive roundtrip. I expect her back in Kathmandu about midnight.

We had a pretty long aftershock a few minutes ago in Kathmandu. I lasted for about 30 seconds. It has been a few days since our last one, but that is the longest one in a while. The earth is still moving in Nepal.


Posted by Matt E for Brian Smith. Please consider a tax free donation to HAND


One day mission with the Midwifery Society of Nepal


Amber Smith, a HAND volunteer, is going out on a remote mission tomorrow to the mountain villages in Nuwakot.  She will be traveling with the Midwifery Society of Nepal and this will be a 15 hour mission. We will update the progress of the trip as the mission concludes. Back in Kathmandu, Brian, Curtis and Team continue to prepare for their trip to build the labor and delivery area in a remote region of Nepal. This trip will occur in the next couple days. HAND continues to work to support the Nepali people, especially in the remote regions of Nepal.

Posted by Matt E. Please consider a tax free donation to HAND

Mission Accomplished in Dolahka

The following is from Brian Smith, Executive Director of HAND who recently returned from a body recovery mission in Dolahka, Nepal.

Six days ago I boarded an Indian Air Force helicopter in Kathmandu. I landed in Charikot Dolakha. I was flying on a Russian Mil Mi-17 military helicopter.
While waiting to meet with the Chief District Officer (like a governor in the US) and commanding officer, I watched approximately 40 relief flights come in and out with thousands of pounds of supplies. I couldn’t help but feel proud when the US Marines would roll in with their Huey’s. One would fly a security circle while the other loaded or unloaded. They would exchange positions with one lifting off for security while the other came in to land. Inside each helicopter were several thousand pounds of USAID boxes which say “From the American People.”

The military base was very busy with helicopters, so at the end of the day I met with Major Rajan, the Commander of Dolakha. I spent the night in a tent at the base along with the refugees from the quake.

The next day the weather had turned bad and very few helicopters were flying. I had lunch with an Indian Army Surgeon and his anesthesiologist. Not long later, I was invited into the officer’s tent for lunch with the Commander and Major. It was my first time eating on the Nepali version of fine china. I had my gear sitting on the helipad should the Indian Air Force come back in. They did, I ran out, grabbed my gear, threw it into the helicopter, jumped in, and off we went flying further north.
The cargo bay is open on these helicopters. Looking straight down at the gorges and looking out the open window to cliff walls just a few feet off the rotor blades keeps the adrenaline flowing.

We landed near the Tibet border to drop off a 50 gallon fuel drum, and then we loaded refugees. We lifted off again and 20 minutes later they dropped me on top of a mountain. I was warmly greeting by the Sargent and taken to a destroyed secondary school that the army was using for a base. Conditions are rough for these guys. We cooked over an open fire inside a partially destroyed school classroom and slept in there as well. We were rocked several times by powerful aftershocks that sent us for the doorway.

There was a bit of a language barrier, so I was not sure exactly where they were taking me. We toured mountain villages that were totally leveled, and talked to the people. I always ask them to tell me their story. A book could be written from their stories and our plan is to share their stories over the next several months on the website.

Early the next morning we climbed into a Land Rover that was trapped on the mountain because of landslides. It took us several hours to make the 3500 vertical foot descent to Singati Bazaar. Singati is like the capital of this region where all trading and products are purchased. Singati is 100% destroyed, as if a bomb was dropped in the middle of the village. It is ground zero, right at the epicenter of the 7.3 earthquake last week.

During our descent in the Land Rover we picked up a number of villagers trying to get down to the military base to get food and tarps. We had 16 people inside the Land Rover, with more on top. To make conditions more difficult, we had a tire blow out. Everyone worked together to change out the tire on a precarious incline.
In these regions I always have armed soldiers with me. When we came through the gates of the military base they said “are you Specialist Smith?” I have a new name now. Major Dhana and Major Raul told me that they had been searching for me for two days and were very worried. There is no electricity in this region because all power lines have been wiped out. Outside of the US Marines, I was the only foreigner permitted into this region.
They showed me where the Marine helicopter wreckage was. They were very sad that two Nepal soldiers from their unit had also been killed in the crash. The last lift off was from the base at the top of the mountain where I was dropped. There was still a pile of USAID supplies that the helicopter dropped on its final mission.
We had a terrible storm when I was on top of the mountain. The rivers were running at flood stage, so we decided to wait another day before going up the valley to recover bodies. There were six bodies crushed by boulders and scattered across the rocks in an area that had been too difficult and dangerous to access. After the first big quake of 7.9, relief trucks and villagers had come down to get aid supplies for their villages. They were almost all killed on their return trip. Somewhere around 500 people (many are still missing).
The next day we set off at first light. We had Nepal Army Ranger Special Forces with ropes and gear. Major Dhana and the Captain were in charge. I was “the specialist.” The mission was extremely dangerous. We traversed numerous landslides with a straight drop to the river below of about 600 feet. In the middle of it all we had two strong aftershocks. Along the way we tried to pull bodies from the rubble, but they were buried too deep. Just scattered clothing and their relief supplies lying on the rocks.

After 1 ½ hours of hard climbing we reached the most grisly scene I have personally experienced.  It was a party of 7. One old man was the lone survivor. He told the military that there was so much dust in the air during the earthquake that they couldn’t see the tons of boulders hurdling down the mountain. They ran in circles with no place to go.

I went to work on removing the bodies. I recovered all of their personal effects for the families. They wanted a bone for a Hindu ceremony from one body so I did some quick surgery, opened up his hand and removed a bone connecting his wrist from his knuckle. They also wanted a piece of cloth, so I tore off his shirt front pocket. I was also able to get the rings off of their fingers.

We dug a mass grave under a tree on the side of the mountain. It took us several attempts to find a place where we could dig deep enough. I put two bodies at a time in the tarp pieces. The Special Forces then helped me haul them down a steep boulder field to our grave.

After putting them all into the grave we covered the bodies with heavy rocks and then finally fresh earth. Their final resting place has a beautiful view of the Himalayan valley.

On the way up we passed a relief truck that had 15 people in it. 10 were killed by giant boulders crashing onto the top of the truck. The driver was blown out of the truck by the impact with his final resting place under one of the mangled truck tires. I have never seen such violence. A hotel/bus stop in the middle of town collapsed killing 10 people. 

That evening we joined a funeral for 3 boys that had lost their mother when a huge boulder came off the mountain flattening their house. They were in their 13th day of mourning, according to culture. Their heads were shaved and they were wearing just a sackcloth type of robe.

While inspecting the damage in the baazar, I noticed a large section of cliff that had separated about five feet from the mountain, but hadn’t collapsed yet. I alerted the majors to this. It was hanging over a refugee camp which would kill people if it collapsed. They thanked me and said “are you sure that your mission is over? We need your help up here!” I needed to get back to Kathmandu to start our baby mission with my sister. The next day Major Dhana called in some heavy equipment. We evacuated the camp and pushed the cliff off. I was given the honor of riding on the machine while it worked. A giant boulder landed where a house had been occupied the day before and more power lines were taken out. We probably saved some lives.

During my final night I spent it under a tarp with 16 refugees while a major storm rolled through. We all banded together to hold the tarp down in high winds and rain. The villagers insisted on feeding me; one spoon at a time to share their gratitude for the risks that I take to help them. I told them “I am here to help you. We either live together, or we die together.” The Major told me that he has never met a foreigner that would take such risks to help people that he doesn’t even know. I have 3000 more friends for life in the Dolakha region.
We tried and tried to get a helicopter to extract me, but alas, it wasn’t possible, so early this morning I hopped on a local bus that was making a journey to Kathmandu. It took us 10 hours to make the 70 mile journey.

My thanks goes to the Nepal Army. These guys are working tirelessly in difficult conditions. They spend their days digging through piles of rubble to get food supplies and personal belongings of the villagers out. Each house they dig into gives that family a weeks-worth of food. They take tremendous risks every day. Every one of them is doing it for their people. They are also keeping things orderly in these regions that are desperate. I am proud that the US military has been training these guys for the past couple of years. Many of them have served in other hotspots in Africa etc. to support the UN peacekeeping efforts.

Posted by Matt E for Brian Smith. Please consider a tax free donation to HAND

Brian is back from Dolahka


We just received the following from Brian Smith who just returned from his body recovery mission... We will post pictures and more information on the mission in the coming days: 

I just returned from a 6 day mission up to the Tibetan border with the Nepal and Indian Army. I was at ground zero from the last big earthquake. It was my most dangerous mission ever, but we were successful. I was able to recover 6 bodies that the army was having a difficulty in reaching. The Indian Air Force flew me in with their helicopter. It was a super difficult recovery. We buried all 6 in a mass grave under a tree, on the side of a mountain. I developed many relationships with the army who honored me with the title "Specialist Smith."

Brian set to return from Dohlaka and more volunteers arrive

Brian called and will be returning from Dohlaka tomorrow. The plan was originally for him to come back today, but he could not get a helicopter out. As he returns, we will update the website with his work in Dohlaka. Stay tuned for more. In Kathmandu, Curtis picked up volunteer Amber and they are working on creating the birthing kits which will be used when they travel to the remote village to build a birthing center. Curtis also had meetings with other non-profits which were seeking advice on how to make changes to schools to protect children from future earthquakes. Finally, Curtis will have one more meeting this evening about the earth home rice bag project. HAND continues to work to provide support to Nepal. 

Posted by Matt E. Please consider a tax free donation to HAND

Dohlaka Update 5/21

Image credit from @NepaliTimes 5/19 Tweet

Image credit from @NepaliTimes 5/19 Tweet

Curtis heard from Brian this afternoon. Brian is still with the Nepali Army Rangers deep in the jungle. During their conversation, Brian experienced a large earthquake but he is ok and in good spirits. Currently, Brian is working with the Army on getting across a river to get to villages to provide aid. Brian is very complementary of the Nepali Army who has excellent discipline and training. They have shown a great deal of respect to Brian and everyone is working very well together to accomplish the mission. Brian has been getting some local press which mentioned him working with the Nepali Army in Dohlaka. If we can get a copy of the article, we will post it here. 

Posted by Matt E. Please consider a tax free donation to HAND

Curtis, Dolahka, Logistics, and more


Before, we start with the update, I want to acknowledge the work of Curtis who lives in Nepal and is the in country contact for many of our missions. Curtis is a very important part of our team in Nepal and we could not do our work without him. He is heavily involved in all of our projects and we are grateful for him. Thank you Curtis!

Brian  is still at the Dolahka military base. He is waiting for a helicopter as the weather has taken a turn for the worse. Last night, Nepal had a serious rain which makes everything unstable especially in Dolahka. The hill region where Brian is can be very dangerous to fly. The hills are big and seem to come out of nowhere when flying. Therefore, we are waiting for the weather to clear a bit before Brian continues with the mission of body recovery.

In Kathmandu, Curtis is working on logistics for volunteers that will be joining the HAND team on ground in Nepal. The HAND team continues to grow, with another Belgium joining our mission. Curtis has put him in charge of learning the building system the team will use to construct homes. Curtis will be purchasing more supplies, tools, etc. in the coming days so we can continue our work.

Curtis will be heading to Dolakha in a couple days and when he and Brian both are in Kathmandu (within the next week or so), they will head to Routbesi to build the labor and delivery center. In the meantime, the HAND team will be building a temporary home for rescued girls of human trafficking who's home was destroyed in the earthquake and continuing the work in Dolahka. 

Posted by Matt E. Please consider a tax free donation to HAND



Dolahka Update

Curtis just received a call from Brian at the Dolakha military base. Brian is leaving in the morning in another helicopter to a remote village with severe casualties. He has a private tent for tonight and will eat with the soldiers at 7pm. He is in good spirits. The U.S. Marines have been making aid drops in the region and Brian watched those as he prepared to head out tomorrow. We will continue to update the website as information comes in. Thank you for your support.

Posted by Matt E. Please consider a tax free donation to HAND

HAND Team deploys at 7:30 for Dolahka


Update (May 19 3:00 am PST): Brian left on the helicopter a few hours ago. We are unsure of the duration of his trip. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers

Original Post:

This post is from an email that Brian Smith, Executive Director of HAND just sent.

Tonight I was whisked away to the military base for final discussions with the generals.  I board a Nepal military helicopter at 0730.  We know that we have 160 bodies to recover in one village.  We know we have 16 inside of one bus.  We know that we have additional cars and busses.  We know that now we have at least 200 Nepalis to recover on this mission to Dolakha.  For this, I am very sad for the tremendous amount of lives lost, in a single small area.  I am honored that the Nepal military has embedded me into their unit to assist in the effort.  The General is requesting some body bags for me, but it will probably come down to tarps and muscle power.  They are also requesting heavy equipment to remove some of the large boulders.  I am totally self-contained with food and supplies in my deployment bag.  It is a dangerous mission.  I appreciate everyone's prayers as we go into ground zero.

As we hear from Brian, we will post updates. Thank you everyone for your support during this difficult mission.

On to Dolahka...

Hello Everyone,

Brian just returned from the Ministry of Homeland with a signed and sealed
letter giving him permission to work directly with the Nepal Army doing body
recovery in Dolakha!  Now that all of the paths have been cleared, the next
step is to get back to Dolakha.  We are asking for a military helicopter that Brian can take out of Kathmandu for the mountains.  Brian's bags are packed, and he is ready to deploy.  The final logistical step will be embedding Brian into the Nepal Army.  He just got a
report that there may be some 40 bodies that he needs to recover; in a
severely decomposed state.  Things are going to move quickly now.  He may
lose touch for a few days but we will do everything we can to keep the updates coming.

Posted for Brian by Matt E. Please consider a tax free donation to HAND

The work continues because of you!

Brian, Curtis, and team continue to work to reach the remote villages. As they seek approval to conduct body recovery and support Dolahka, they continue to plan for another trip to Routbesi (where they provided needed supplies a few days ago). They will be deploying in a few days to build the labor and delivery area and provide needed medical services. This work is critically important to Routbesi as there are over 70 pregnant women that need a clean and safe place to deliver. Brian, Curtis and team continue to make in country contacts which are helping cut through the red tape and get the HAND team where they need to go to help remote villages without any support. This is important work and needed as we provide assistance. Your donations and support have been critical to this. We want to acknowledge all the love and support we have received since the inception of our organization and particularly, over the past few weeks. You are what makes HAND and the work we do possible. Your gifts, outpouring of support, and using your talents to support us is inspiring. We are able to change lives in Nepal because of you. You make the work of HAND possible, so thank you for all you do.

Dolahka Mission Update

Hello Everyone,

Brian is still working on getting approval to provide aid to the region. He has several Nepali contacts working with the government to obtain approval so he can use his unique skill set to assist. In the meantime, Brian and team continue to focus in other areas of Nepal as we seek approval. Brian has many contacts working on getting him approval to conduct body recover in Dolahka. In fact, here is an excerpt from an email from a famous Nepali that was sent to the government...

"One of the fellow American is stuck in Charikot, Dolakha - where I was day before yesterday trying to help. He has an extensive knowledge and expertise in managing corpses, prevention of disease from such corpses, etc... All he needs is a letter from the concerned government so that he can align his expertise with Nepal Army at Charikot"

Posted for Brian Smith by Matt E. Please consider a tax free donation to HAND