A Portland naturopath's unexpected aid work in Nepal

By Elizabeth Hayes

on May 20, 2015, 12:32pm

Dr. Erin Moore, a recent graduate of the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, found herself at the center of an international news story this spring.


Moore was in Karmidanda, a Himalayan village in central Nepal, working on a community project and living with her “adopted” family. Then on April 25, she was on her way to Kathmandu when the ground starting shaking.


“We went around a bend in the river valley and looked up to where villages are and just saw clouds of dust,” Moore said in an interview today from Karmidanda.


Dr. Erin Moore, Nat Willis and the Neupane family reunited after the earthquake, upon Nat and the Neupane daughter's arrival from Kathmandu.

She quickly returned on foot to the village, only to find all but two of the 75 homes destroyed and most of the livestock killed. Altogether, the 7.8-magnitude quake cost 8,000 people their lives, flattened numerous villages and triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least 19.


Four weeks later, the situation has stabilized in Karmidanda, but Moore is staying on a bit longer to help the village return to normal. Then she’ll continue to help solicit donations, even when she returns to her medical practice in Portland.


“I never expected to be in this situation,” she said. “I know I’m in the right place at right time and feel privileged to be able to help and grateful I have a home that is standing to go back to.”

Moore graduated in June from NCNM, then in March headed to Nepal, where she had worked on community development and medical projects off and on since 2009. This time, she was there to facilitate a “participatory rural assessment,” a process whereby a community prioritizes problems and designs solutions, she said.


When the earthquake hit, Moore was pushed into an unfamiliar role for a naturopath, as a first responder.


“I had a first aid kit on me and homeopathic remedies,” she said. Otherwise, her supplies were destroyed, as were most in the village. Within the first 24 hours, 33 people in the area died. One girl who was pulled out of the rubble with two broken arms was taken to a hospital that is a four-hour walk from the Karmidanda.


Moore used local plants to stop another victim’s bleeding.


“That’s where my naturopathic education came in handy,” she said.


She bounced back and forth between a camp for those displaced from their homes and the shelter she made. Her boyfriend, Nat Willis, was able to fly to Nepal with a tent and more emergency supplies.


“There are so many needs,” Moore said. “In the beginning, it was really overwhelming.”

Dr. Erin Moore, right, shows women in the village of Karmidanda how to use water filters.

She decided to focus on securing clean water, which she was able to accomplish with help from a Christian organization from Montana that supplied filters. She’s also providing medical care, making sure basic needs are met before the monsoon season hits in early June.


“With the new cracks in the earth, it makes the entire country much more prone to landslides than in the past,” Moore said.


She’s also gotten back to the original project of devising the community action plan before she returns to Portland.


“Once the community comes together and articulates what it needs, I’d be most useful raising the funds to support them in doing that,” she said. “It’s been a trying time. For the most part, feeling grounded and optimistic.”

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