40 participants (14 female, 26 male) from six monasteries, two nunneries, and one school, including the Karma Thegchen Lekshey Ling Nunnery, Nehnang Phuntsok Choling Monastery, Odsel Karma Tek Chok Ling Nunnery, Pal Dilyak Monastery, Pal Thupten Ngedon Shedrup Dhargyeling Monastery, Pullahari Monastery, Shree Mangal Dvip School, and Thrangu Tashi Yangtse Namo Buddha, attended the Disaster Preparedness: Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training hosted by Odsel Karma Tek Chok Ling Nunnery. 

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In November of 2015, during the 6th Khoryug Conference, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa set the aspiration that all Khoryug monasteries and nunneries should develop practical skills and knowledge for disaster preparedness and response. He later explained that “We were all affected greatly by the earthquake in Nepal and wanted to know how we could help so that in the future we are not just taken by fear but prepared to be useful and deal skillfully with the situation.” With proper training, Khoryug monastics can not only protect their monastery or nunnery but also provide essential assistance and care to their local communities, often in areas where professional aid may not be readily available.

Khoryug in Nepal has pursued this aspiration by partnering with the White Mountain Training Institute to conduct a series of four workshops entitled Disaster Preparedness: Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training. On August 24, 2016, senior instructor Dr. Behrouz Moghaddasi and assistant trainer Lama Jyamyang Dorje began the second of these workshops, leading a five day course for 40 monks, nuns, and laypeople at Odsel Karma Tek Chok Ling Nunnery in Boudha.

Khoryug Nepal Coordinator Khenpo Chokey emphasized that “The opportunity for the monks and nuns to participate in this disaster management training was made possible due to the kindness of His Holiness the Karmapa. Disasters are uncertain and unpredictable, so it is important to prepare ourselves to act when the time comes to execute search and rescue.”

The participants learned quickly that this would be a hands-on and active workshop as Dr. Behrouz asked them to present answers on questions about common disasters in Nepal and essential needs after a disaster. Dr. Behrouz challenged students to consider the urgency to act before and after a disaster. Dr. Behrouz explained, “Why is this disaster preparedness training essential? You can’t expect help to come in time.”

Over the next several days, the participants learned the basic causes and effects of disasters and developed their ability to assess a disaster situation and implement the most appropriate response plan while continuously reviewing and revising that plan according to the situation. They also practiced finding and securing safe locations for evacuation, having the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety kits, effective situation assessment, rapid assessment of the victim, triage during mass casualties to save the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time, civilian first-aid and cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), focusing on rescuer safety and teamwork, and managing psychological trauma through the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) process.

Participants diligently practiced critical skills in, for example, assessing a scene and victim or demonstrating CPR and methods to lift and transport victims. They realized quickly that these skills needed to be reflexive and second nature if they are to be effective first responders during the next disaster. Participant Nyima Dorje (Sherpa) of Thrangu Monastery described, “I am here to learn how to save myself and others when a disaster happens because I have experienced the issues in the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Before, I could only support victims verbally because I did not have the hands-on, technical skills to help. Now, I have learned how to assist unconscious or choking victims through the CPR and CAB procedure. I understand how to check for vital signs and pulses, so I can assist with basic first aid.”

In addition to the technical skills, Dr. Behrouz also focused on mental health to ensure that psychological trauma does not impact the health of rescuers and victims. Dr. Behrouz explained, “It is not only the physical. You also need PPE for your mental well-being to manage the psychological stresses of rescue work. Balance is very important and may be different for each person.” It was key for participants to learn that they cannot expect to save others if they do not first save themselves.

The participants were able to test their mettle as first responders with a three-hour field exercise simulation to culminate their training. This exercise was taken very seriously. Since a disaster could strike at any time, this opportunity allowed participants to practice their skills in a safe setting while developing their team dynamic, so they are prepared to act in the case of a real emergency. In closing, Dr. Behrouz gave a final reminder, “A lot of good work! There needs to be teamwork with discipline to save lives.” In the coming months, Dr. Behrouz will follow up with CERT trainees with practical field exercises and simulations to continue developing and honing their disaster response skills.

This training was sponsored by Odsel Karma Tek Chok Ling Nunnery, Khoryug in Nepal and the Osel Foundation and is the second out of four trainings in the Kathmandu and Kavrepalanchok districts. The first training was sponsored and hosted by the Phende Foundation and Thrangu Group. The last two trainings will be hosted by Benchen Dargeyling Shedra and Pal Dilyak Monastery, respectively, and sponsored by the Osel Foundation.

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