My First Week at Humanity Road: 20 Years in the Making

Guest Post by Corey Makar, Humanity Road Intern

Sometimes you make your own luck.

This idea is often applied to athletes – when a player is credited with scoring a lucky goal, the hundreds of hours that that player spent exercising and honing their skills is rarely mentioned. A new entrepreneur may be called lucky to have gotten their big break, but meticulous planning, networking, and a vision for the future will have been just as important as the intangible “luck”.

The same might be said for emergency management.

I was supposed to start my internship with Humanity Road on May 6. That was the plan. But then the earthquake in Nepal happened, and I began my first week ahead of schedule by diving right in….or rather, I was thrown in! As the crisis in Nepal unfolded I began coordinating international deliveries of donated medical supplies, live mapping areas of need for responding agencies, and working shoulder to shoulder with dedicated people to sort through thousands of social media messages. I was proud to play a part in a few success stories – we were able to contact doctors in Kathmandu who could receive medical supplies and Humanity Road Situation Reports were used by SAR team in Nepal to prioritize their activities.

But my most rewarding moment came when I was on a conference call with Cat Graham, Chief Operations Officer and Co-founder of Humanity Road, and a US citizen who had family stranded on a hiking trail between Lukla Airport and Everest Base camp. The stranded hikers were not injured, but their relatives were understandably worried that they may be stuck for an extended period of time. Information regarding flights out of Lukla was spotty and unreliable. The U.S. embassy was overwhelmed and unable to help, and the hikers’ cell phones were almost out of power.

I had spent some time in Nepal almost 20 years ago. I went on my own, looking for nothing in particular, and finding some of the most spectacular mountain ranges I will ever see in my life. I flew into Lukla Airport, dubbed the “World’s Most Dangerous Airport” on account of the mountain-side runway that seems short from a distance and feels even shorter when your plane drops off the end as it takes off! I had with me some maps that I had bought in Kathmandu to help guide me from the airport to Everest Base camp, my final destination. On those maps I had written the time it took me to hike from one area to the next. Namche Bazar to Thyangboche, 4 hours. Periche to Gorakshep, 5 hours. This was a fun way to commemorate each step I took, and when I got home I framed those maps and kept them on my wall.

As I was listening to that conference call, I realized that I may be able to provide some information, some comfort, to the person that had called us for help. I took my map off the wall and studied it for the first time in years. The hikers were in Monjo and were on their way to Lukla? In good conditions that should take about 5 hours. If there are landslides covering the trails then it may take longer. There should be no need for any extra-ordinary navigation; they should arrive safely without too much trouble.

I could hear the relief in her voice. Someone who had been there had been able to tell her that things would be okay….that the situation wasn’t as bad as her imagination led her to believe. The hikers eventually made it the Lukla Airport, and were able to take a flight to Kathmandu. Once there, the hikers, doctors both of them, stayed to help those in need.

I never expected those maps to be used again, not for anything more than a conversation topic or a reminder of when my knees were able to carry a pack up and down the Himalayas. But they were used to help someone feel reassured, and perhaps helped them sleep a little better that night. Lucky I was there all those years ago, and wrote down those numbers after all, and I am very proud to be selected to intern with Humanity Road.

About Corey Makar

Corey Makar is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Emergency & Security Management Studies program from the Justice Institute of British Columbia, sits on the Program Council for the JIBC . He is certified as an Associate Business Continuity Professional by the Disaster Recovery Institute and is an Emergency Management/Business Continuity consultant. He is a seasoned first responder with Sidney Fire Department. Corey serves as Team Leader and provides strategic guidance for CanVOST, Canada’s first and only Social Media support organization for communities nation-wide. Through CanVOST Corey has participated in response activities during the Alberta Floods of 2013, as well as in the recent CAUSE 3 cross border collaboration between Canada and the United States.