Aid worker in earthquake terror while doing charity work

A man from Kirkcaldy, who is travelling the world helping others, was trapped in a 5.7 magnitude earthquake while staying in a village in Nepal that he was helping to rebuild.

Derek Cowan, 34, was in the village of Thangpalkot in Nepal at the time which was reduced to rubble earlier in the year by a much bigger earthquake.

After witnessing extreme poverty during a trip to South East Asia at the end of August, Derek was inspired to help others and founded www.helpthejourney.com.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

His mission is to travel the world helping 50 charities in 50 countries across six continents to achieve long-term sustainable growth.

Derek said: “On 22 January 2015 I left Scotland on a journey of discovery. It was a journey that I knew would help me find my purpose. I had to go. I had been suffering from depression and I needed to change. The brutal truth was that if I didn’t, then I would have ended up dead at the end of a rope. So I bought a ticket.”

As it turns out this was a one-way ticket to Vietnam and Derek made the decision to give up everything he had known to travel across South-East Asia helping others in need.

“I figured that if I could carry out enough random acts of kindness then maybe I’d even help myself along the way. I did just that, and my heart opened in ways I could never have imagined. I had the opportunity to work with social enterprises doing so much good helping some of the most vulnerable groups in society that I decided I wanted to keep doing this.

“These tiny little charities were doing and giving everything they could to help with food, living conditions, and emotional support. All I could think was ‘These are the charities that need the most help!”

But when the earthquake hit, Derek was a little more than shaken, saying: “The quake happened last Wednesday and gave me quite a fright – although no buildings were damaged and nobody was hurt. I was only a few miles from the epicentre and it was pretty frightening.

“I am actually here trying to help to rebuild the village after it was destroyed by another major earthquake earlier this year. So I can only imagine how terrifying the larger quake would have been for the people here.”

Derek is now hoping to raise over £100k and has set up his own GoFundMe campaign for the first of his fifty projects entitled ‘Rebuild 86 homes in Nepal village’.

The money donated will go towards supporting 50 small charities to help fund various community projects and Derek will be travelling to these charities and working with them to provide whatever hands-on support they require. Whether it’s digging a well, helping to build new houses or working on their marketing plans.

The first cause on Derek’s list was the village of Thangpalkot in Nepal, which is located in the worst hit region from the previous earthquake. 86 homes were destroyed in the disaster leaving only six standing and with winter fast approaching and no insulation it is imperative the work starts soon.

The money raised will be used to rebuild all 86 homes with the most vulnerable having their homes rebuilt first. With additional funds being used to educate the children, who are also in temporary classrooms.

Derek said: “Help the Journey is just about to build the very first home. You can’t understand how happy the villagers and I are about this. I can only thank everyone who has contributed so far. You are amazing. But of course, we still have a long-way to go and so any further contributions to the GoFundMe page would be so gratefully received.”

In a modern, transparent approach to raising funds, Derek will be sharing this journey through Periscope (an online live-streaming platform) and showing the day-to-day struggles that many of these charities face; who they are trying to help, and the exact ways they are making a difference.

Kelsea Little, spokesperson for GoFundMe.com said: “Derek’s GoFundMe campaign is incredibly inspiring, and it’s amazing to see the support of the community who have rallied together to donate. We’re very happy to be able to provide a platform that allows “Help the Journey” achieve its goals.”