Travel Photographer/FS Spouse Seeks to Help Rebuild a Small Corner of Nepal

Posted: 2:58 am EDT
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The impact of the 25 April and 12 May earthquakes resulted in over two million people in Nepal losing their houses due to damage. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, during September and October this year, population movements are expected to increase, particularly with the mass outflux from the Kathmandu Valley to districts before the Dashain festival beginning in late October. On a smaller scale, with the end of the monsoon, the majority of those residing in spontaneous settlement and those relocated due to landslide risks will likely return to their original residence. Ensuring comprehensive returns will also depend on the availability of support for shelter reconstruction.

Derek Brown, a Foreign Service spouse and a friend of the blog is helping with shelter reconstruction in a small corner of Nepal.  Derek is an American travel photographer, currently based in Kathmandu. He was previously in Pakistan and India with his USAID FSO spouse and has been generous in sharing some of his photos with this blog (see Derek Brown’s Photographs From India — Old Delhi, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, and Kutch; NYT’s India Ink Features Awesome Photographer and USAID/EFM).

In the aftermath of the earthquake, Derek wanted to document Nepalis helping Nepalis, and reached out to his friend Pawan Shakya whom he’d first met in 2013. Pawan who runs a small family publishing business from Durbar Square, the historic center of Kathmand has already embarked on self-funded relief projects aimed at some of the neediest villages following the earthquake. Derek realized that he could help in the planning, funding and execution of Pawan’s projects. He brought in Tyler Driscoll, a graphic designer he knew from San Francisco and together they put up a GoFundMe fundraising to help rebuild a small corner of Nepal.

The relief effort is intended to improve the lives of over 500 earthquake-stricken Nepali villagers in 2 villages. They picked the village of Chhap, 3.5 hours northeast of Kathmandu. Of 250 houses in the area, only 1 remained inhabitable after the earthquakes. The other location Ranipauwa Village is roughly 1.5 hours drive northwest of Kathmandu, and was almost totally destroyed by the earthquake, with essentially none of the houses inhabitable or even repairable.

The villages were selected based on need, the ability of villagers to help each other, and their ability to help themselves. Very importantly, one young man from each village works for Pawan’s family business. Having a person from inside each community not only provides valuable insight into issues and opportunities, but it also facilitates ongoing communication and monitoring that can help avoid all sorts of missteps.

They plan not only to build bamboo relief houses, they also plan to fund chicken farms, replace livestock and provide improved seeds for future plantings in the two villages.

derek bamboo hse

Tyler, Derek and Pawan © 2015 Derek Brown

Derek says that neither Pawan nor him will be taking any compensation at any point–Pawan is doing the calendar printing at cost and there will be no charge for Derek’s  images.  The GFM campaign provides other rewards that do carry cost like mugs, t-shirts, large prints, so do let them know if you do not want them.  They have raised about $11K so far in the last two months of their GFM campaign.   If you are able to help, check out their GFM campaign:

You may also follow Derek’s photo blog documenting their rebuilding efforts here:

Below is a photo of a mother and child washing hair in a creek in Nepal, one of our favorites from Derek’s  collection. What a lovely smile! Check out the rest of his photos on Facebook and Tumblr.  धन्यवाद

Photo by

© 2015 Derek Brown


Derek Brown’s Photographs From India — Old Delhi, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, and Kutch

— By Domani Spero

We most recently blogged about Derek Brown’s photos from India in early 2013 ( See NYT’s India Ink Features Awesome Photographer and USAID EFM). This blog has also featured his 2010 photo exhibit in DC, a photo from the East Africa Bombing Memorial, and photos from Pakistan during his FSO’s assignment there. His photos are in Facebook but we are thrilled to see his photos of Old Delhi, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, and Kutch, in a new Tumblr.

Below is a boat in Kutch, in the Gujarat state of western India. Apparently, Kutch literally means “something which intermittently becomes wet and dry.”  Thanks, Derek, for letting us use this photo!

Check out more gorgeous photos from India, vivid, brimming with life, leaping off the frames at

2013 © Derek Brown. Used with permission

2013 Photo © Derek Brown. Used with permission
(Click on image to view more photos)

* * *

NYT’s India Ink Features Awesome Photographer and USAID/EFM

We have previously written about Derek Brown’s photographs in this blog.  (see Photo Exhibit | Imagining the Muslim World by Derek BrownUS Mission Pakistan: Ambassador Hoagland Visits Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque).  In 2010, while on a trip to Kenya, he very kindly took a photo of the Nairobi Memorial for this blog. A USAID EFM, Derek is currently posted with his family in India.

We were thrilled to see his photos from India used recently with Rebecca Byerly’s New York Times’ piece Lost and Found at the Kumbh Mela.  What’s that? Just the largest gathering of humanity in the world with millions of people estimated to gather for the auspicious bathing day.

Every 12  years, an enormous pop-up city is erected on a flood plain, where the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati Rivers merge.  Organizers say up to 80 million people are likely to attend the six-week event.  Though there is not an official estimate of the crowds yet, the police and organizers say that on Sunday, the largest bathing day, the number of people separated from their family and friends at the mela rose above 20,000.

Read more here.

Here is one of Derek’s photos (used with permission):

Photo Copyright © 2013 Derek Brown

Photo Copyright © 2013 Derek Brown

Last month, he made a return NYT appearance with a blog post and photos of Chennai during the festival of Chithirai Thiruvizha which celebrates the marriage of Hindu goddess Parvati to the god Shiva. (see At Madurai’s Chithirai Thiruvizha Festival, Crowds, Flowers and a Golden Horse).

We are delighted for Derek and are looking forward to seeing more of his photos from South Central Asia.

Check out more of Derek’s photos on FB:

The photos are also available to order and license at


— DS










US Mission Pakistan: Ambassador Hoagland Visits Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque

On February 18, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland and U.S. Consul General in Lahore Nina Maria Fite visited the Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque, two of Pakistan’s most famous landmarks. The tour started at the Fort’s Alamgiri Gate, which was restored with a grant from the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), which is helping conservation of Pakistan’s national heritage. Afzal Khan, Punjab Deputy Director of Archaeology, led the tour.  According to the US Embassy in Pakistan, the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation has provided more than $1.8 million towards 17 different cultural and archeological projects in Pakistan over the past decade. Ten of these 17 sites were in the province of Punjab.

Badshahi Mosque

Photo by Derek Brown | Click on photo to view slideshow

The Badshahi Mosque or the ‘King’s Mosque’ in Lahore was commissioned by the sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1671 and completed in 1673. It is the second largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia and the fifth largest mosque in the world.  It is Lahore’s most famous landmark and a major tourist attraction.

The Lahore Fort also known as Shahi Qila was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 along with the Shalimar Gardens of Lahore. According to UNESCO the 21 monuments preserved within the boundaries of Lahore Fort comprise an outstanding repertory of the forms of Mughal architecture at its artistic and aesthetic height, from the reign of Akbar (1542-1605) through the reign of Shah Jahan (1627-58). “The property in general maintains the authentic layout, forms, design and substance of both complexes and the constituent layouts, elements and features associated with the Mughal artistic and aesthetic expressions of the 16th and 17th century. Maintaining authenticity of workmanship necessitates that contemporary repair and conservation work use and revive traditional techniques and materials.”

The photos of this visit were posted in the embassy’s account in Flicker and Facebook. Although generally well received online, one FB user complained about the Lahore visit in the embassy’s FB page:

Arslan Talib All traffic were blocked due to this person. at least they should not block trafic from all sides
Saturday at 12:42am
Richard Hoagland ‎@ Arslan Talib: I agree with you — we should NOT block traffic. That was not my choice. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.
Saturday at 1:03am

Nice to see Ambassador Hoagland in FB, addressing the issue within minutes with an apology.  More photos posted here in Facebook. And the photos are gorgeous! It turns out that the photos were taken by somebody familiar – Derek Brown!

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The last time I posted about Derek Brown, awesome travel photographer and USAID EFM was in October 2010 when he had the Imagining the Muslim World Photo Exhibit in Washington, D.C. Photos from that exhibit was also carried by IIP and posted in several embassy websites. And now he is in Pakistan!  Oh, lucky mission!

Domani Spero