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Annual Report 2014–15

Staff Profiles

Kamala Sharma-Wing

A helping hand for earthquake-ravaged Nepal

In April 2015, Nepal suffered a devastating natural disaster when a magnitude 8 earthquake shook the nation, killing more than 8,800 people and injuring more than 23,000 others. Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless and entire villages were flattened.

The world responded, with aid and recovery agencies quickly deployed in support. Australia provided more than 13 tonnes of aid to Nepal via two Air Force C-17A Globemaster III strategic airlift aircraft.

A Nepalese-born Royal Australian Navy officer appealed to her workmates for aid to send to Nepal, but she never thought it would go viral.

Lieutenant Kamala Sharma-Wing said she began collecting a few things around the house and thought she would appeal to the broader Defence community.

‘My email was forwarded outside Defence, all around Canberra and interstate—I was getting inundated by emails from people wanting to help and support the cause’, Kamala said.

Kamala moved to Australia with her family in 1985 at the age of 13. She kept in touch with her relatives and went to Nepal on holidays.

She joined the Australia–Nepal Friendship Society in Canberra in 2012 but wasn’t that active as a member. The earthquake changed that.

‘When the earthquakes occurred I really felt like I had to do something personally—I just wanted to help’, Kamala said.

‘My family is very fortunate to be living in Australia. We used to live in Kathmandu, so had we stayed, it would have been us in that situation.

‘With all the support we have received from both Defence members and civilians, this is all much bigger than I ever dreamt.’

The donations collected by the Australia–Nepal Friendship Society exceeded $41,000. More than four tonnes of usable equipment—in the form of tents, sleeping bags, lightweight doonas and blankets—was also donated.

Kamala said several airlines had supported the cause.

‘Initially, if they had, say, a spare 100 kilograms of cargo allowance, they donated that to let us get medical supplies over there.’

A storage company in Canberra also donated free space in its warehouse.

‘The responses were amazing, and brought home to me how much Australians care and are willing to pitch in when someone needs help.’