Beau Miller is executive director of Aythos, a Washington, D.C.-based NGO, which was one of the first relief organizations to reach some of the devastated villages of the Sindhupalchok District of Nepal after the recent earthquake. He’s been there since April 30 and took time to email with me this week.
What prompted your first trip to Nepal?
I first went to Nepal in 2008 to teach English for five months. Prior to that, I was a brewer in Colorado, and I left to try to understand a little bit more of the world.
This is now my seventh trip. Nepal is the kind of place that never leaves you, even if you don’t understand why that is. It’s just a very special place, despite a lot of the issues it has. It’s the kind of place I find my thoughts drifting back to, and whenever I see a photo or hear somebody talk about it, I immediately have the urge to go back.
Why did you start Aythos?
I started Aythos in 2009 after I returned from Nepal. I had visited a remote village in a Himalayan area called Helambu, and I was hooked. The people were beyond hospitable, with an amazing sense of humor, and even though only a few of them spoke any English, they always made me feel welcome and wanted to know more about me.
As I learned more about them and their culture, I understood they faced some real challenges, and so I started Aythos with some good friends of mine to help them with local education and agriculture development initiatives.
Why have you remained committed to this work?
Honestly, I don’t know what else I would do. I don’t know if I could ever stop working in Nepal. It’s great to see projects being implemented, and I love meeting new people there and hearing about their lives. But, in a way, I’m never satisfied. Whatever good happens there because of Aythos, there is always more to be done, and I’m happy to work with a wonderful team to do it.
What are Aythos’ priorities for the relief efforts?
We were the first relief team to reach these rural areas. My colleague Dave has been putting his EMT experience to work, supporting a team of Buddhist monks and international medical workers from the White Monastery. They are in Helambu treating injuries of as-yet-untreated earthquake victims – they are seeing a lot of infections.
I’m with a local crew in Okreni village distributing shelter materials, food and medical supplies for 70 people (9,100 villagers of Okreni lost their homes). I will also be assessing surrounding villages to determine future ways to support them. We had heard of looters but all we’ve seen is pleas for help while standing in front of our vehicle and sobs of joy when we can offer a tarp to protect their families from the daily rains.
How are you doing?
Right now, I’m on autopilot. The villages I know have been destroyed – in Helambu alone, about 200 people have been killed and 300 more are without shelter. So I’ve lost a lot of friends – people who have hosted me, fed me, laughed with me.
These places I know and love will never be the same, but I know that through Aythos, we have a real opportunity to help people that would not get help otherwise. I’ve been in disaster responses before, and these relief workers need to know where to go. That’s where I think that Aythos can be a big help.
Visit the Aythos website to learn more about its mission to strengthen Himalayan communities.