Former SMC student joins relief effort in Nepal

Former SMC film student Matthew Childs was on his way to Nepal for business when the shattering earthquake of April 25 hit, killing over 8,000 people and injuring more than 18,000. What began as a trip for a clothing line Childs works for turned into an effort to help with aid relief. Childs is still in the country and was able to make contact via e-mail with The Corsair as well as send over images he has captured. With wifi access limited in the country, Childs was able to communicate quickly what he could.

How did you find yourself involved in the Nepal rescue effort?

My friend Harry Marchant and I have been coming to Nepal for many years and love the people and the natural beauty of the Himalayan Mountains. Harry originally hired me to tag along on one of his trips to document the forming of his clothing company Native Nepal and to verify its fair trade and organic practices as well as the rich and diverse beauty of the culture.

My involvement in the company has grown and I've now become art director in addition to taking on other various responsibilities. We travel here frequently for business and were enroute when the tragic earthquake hit near Kathmandu, the capital city. Luckily, I had taken a few extra days in Tokyo where I was working on another film project and was able to wait out much of the chaos directly following the earthquake. Harry was coming from India by land and was also able to wait a few days while we considered our options.

After some consideration we decided the best thing was just fly in as planned and see how we could help and what needed to be done. The goal of our business is to help the people of Nepal structurally and financially through trade and practices that are in harmony with their culture and environment. At some point we had planned to incorporate a nonprofit village outreach program to help people in need and build schools etc. We just never imagined we would be doing it right at off the bat due to this disaster.

How did your time as a film student at SMC influence your decision to go to Nepal or the work you're doing there?

The film program at SMC is truly a hidden gem in the world of film education. The head of the program, Salvadore Carrasco has done a really thorough job designing a program that not only builds the solid and practical foundation necessary for film production but also creates an expanded cultural worldview through the study of global cinema.

The methodology and discipline necessary for narrative feature film work has been invaluable for me as I head out into the field doing "run and gun" style documentary work where people, resources and time are always scarce. Throughout the SMC program students are exposed to many different opportunities to try various positions and roles on set and to see what best fits their personality.

I was one of those students that had a tough time deciding on a focus and found myself always trying different positions in class and on our produxtion shoots, weather it was operating the camera learning about lighting or taking on a more administrative role. All of that hands on experience was invaluable now that I am out traveling around the world and need to wear several hats at the same time.

What would you like Americans to know immediately about the situation in Nepal?

This is a very beautiful country with a rich and diverse history. The people here are all heart and often times go out of their way to assist one another. Despite a thriving tourism industry and being rich in natural resources they are still a very poor country that depends upon agricuture and their livestock to survive.

This disaster made many of them homeless but they also lost their seed stockpiles, time necessary to plant and even many of their animals themselves. The good news is that a small amount of foreign investment or donations can make a very large impact here and the donations we've been receiving have been able to do some tremendous things, directly, in a short amount of time.

How long will you be in Nepal?

I was originally to be here for 3 weeks filming but now that we're directing the relief fund it's started to grow into a full time job I'll have to asses the situation and see how best I can help.

I continue to document my experiences here through film and photography and I hope that my images will raise awareness and spread news of our continued efforts. I'll be showcasing my photographs and short film at fundraising gallery events in New York and Los Angeles this summer and will continue to update our relief work and adventures at as well as our social media outlets.

What can SMC students do to help with the aid efforts?

People can donate through the Native Nepal Disaster Relief Fund we've started that delivers tents, food and supplies directly to villagers and makes sure all donations are used as intended. We have volunteers that shop for supplies, ride along in the trucks and verify delivery of supplies to villagers that many of the larger relief organizations have yet to reach. This also directly helps the local economy since we are purchasing from local merchants and factories.

Besides donating to funds or charities of their choice people can purchase Nepalese goods or consider coming here for their next vacation. Nepal is a melting pot of Asian cultures and religions, a wonderful example of religious tolerance and multicultural celebration.

Everyone thinks of Mt. Everest when They think of the Himalayan range but there are many, many smaller accessible treks around the Anapurna Range and local areas to explore. Not to mention paragliding and river rafting at a fraction of the cost we're used to paying in the U.S.