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Alumna helping on the ground in Nepal

Ali Malcolm​ with friend, Rita
Ali Malcolm​ with friend, Rita, for whom she is fundraising to
help rebuild her home

​On Saturday, April 25, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, causing severe destruction and devastation. Nipissing University alumna Ali Malcolm was there.

Malcolm considers herself fortunate that she and her family were not injured during the tragedy. At the time, she had been living in Kathmandu since 2013 with her husband and two small children. Originally from Brampton, ON, Malcolm has used her Bachelor of Education degree as a ticket to travel the world, teaching in Korea, Malwai and Kuwait. Her work piqued an interest in international development, leading her to a masters degree from OISE in Comparative International Development Education, and work in Ghana as a research advisor. The move to Kathmandu was based on her husband’s work with an educational foundation and allowed Malcolm to focus on a PhD in Comparative International Development Education. With the PhD on hold for a maternity leave, and two daughters (one aged two, and one just five months old) the quake hit.

“The quake happened around noon on Saturday, a day that many families spend together,” said Malcolm. “My husband, daughters and I were at a flea market, outside, chatting with friends and I was just thinking about making a move to go home when there was a loud rumble and our world began to shake - violently. I knew at once it was ‘the big earthquake’ which had become almost a legend here. I yelled at my husband to grab our oldest daughter and I reached for the baby, who a friend was holding. Then I just held on to her and crouched down low while the ground shook and then began lurching from side to side like a ship in a storm at sea. It was really wild - the whole world was rocking back and forth, and we were on the ground, the earth, not in a building. Some people were screaming and running, the trees were bending, and I heard the water in the swimming pool splashing. It felt like a disaster movie.”

After the quake Malcolm recalls that she and her family checked on some friends and packed up and went home. The 10-minute walk home was marked by several aftershocks and lots of damage with people outside of their homes, standing around looking shocked.

“Despite this massive tragedy, I feel so fortunate,” she said. “Our house is fine, and although we are still feeling after shocks, are without power and running water, life seems to be getting back to somewhat normal, at a slow place. Of course, this is the case for us, but for many who have no homes it is a different story.”

“I think I was in shock for a few days, I didn't really feel anything, but was trying to think logically and practically and just getting things done for the family. Then a few nights ago when another big after shock struck, I felt intense fear - almost panic. It was the first time since the main quake that I really felt terrified, and it is still lingering.”

“Although life continues, it is as if we are operating under the cloud of the earthquake. Almost all schools are closed and there are little options for Nepali kids, which I think is really too bad - the best thing in times like this is for kids to have a safe space to, a sense of 'normality' and perhaps access to some sort of counselling.”

With much of the expat community evacuated, Malcolm and her husband debated what to do, torn between immediate safety and staying to help a country they have come to love. They decided to stay and help, Malcolm is now starting some fundraising to help her friend, Rita, who lost her house and is now living in a tent with her 16 family members. You can find out more, and make a donation, here.

Other ways to help Nepal:

“People should keep in mind that rebuilding the country will take years,” said Malcolm. “Although the earthquake is over, and news about it will peter out very soon, there are so many people here who will still need help and support.”

On a lighter note, Malcolm looks back fondly at her time at Nipissing:

“I've always valued my time at Nipisisng because I came from "the big city" - as one first year friend told me - and I loved the sense of community at Nipissing. I'll never forget walking into the registrars office for help and being called by name, or phoning to talk to someone about program academics and getting through right away. I knew all my upper year professors well. I chose the university because I didn't want to be just a number at a big school and I got what I wanted. That sense of community has stayed with me and lasted into my travels, my work and family, even here in Nepal where I am looking to help.”

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