Meet… Laxman Niroula
Laxman Niroula joined the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) team as they packed a truck, preparing to head east to Chautara – the epicentre of Nepal's recent earthquake. The mission was heading out to support technicians and equipment providing urgent communications services to humanitarian responders in the field.
Laxman is an IT Officer for the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a Non-Governmental Organisation working with disadvantaged communities in Nepal, and an active member of the local ETC Working Group. On a normal day, he is responsible for the networks at LWF and providing IT support to his colleagues. After the two recent earthquakes, however, his days are far from normal.
His ETC story starts two years ago when, sensing his passion for knowledge and self-improvement bubbling under the surface, Laxman's boss suggested that he apply for Let's Net, an ETC training programme held in Luxembourg and funded by ETC member, emergency.lu.
Competition for this course is famously fierce, and Laxman finally succeeded on securing a place on his third application. He smiles as he recalls the finer details of his time training with the ETC team in Luxembourg: "We had to deploy a complete communications system in two hours as if we were in an emergency." Boosted by encouragement from Rob Buurveld of WFP's FITTEST Fast Intervention Team, Laxman said: "Our team of four established the full communications system in two hours flat."
Collaboration, he says, is the foundation of working in an emergency. "It's about group work and team building. It doesn't work by yourself."
Laxman's experience at Let's Net came to the fore on 25 April when the 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck his home country. It is unsurprising then that he wanted to help. "I like to support my country and utilize my skills to contribute to disaster-affected communities," says Laxman who was born in Terathum, a remote location in the north-east of Nepal. This is how he came to be with the ETC team early one Sunday morning in the truck heading out into the field – helping to check up on deployed equipment and establishing wireless links to sites where humanitarians were operating.
"In this scenario, telecommunications are extremely important because people aren't sure if their families are safe or not. If people are trapped or in remote areas, how are they going to get help without telecommunications?" Through its network of partners, the ETC is currently providing shared internet connectivity services to over 1000 humanitarians at 13 sites across Nepal.
Each year, the ETC and its partners fund a number of information and communications technology (ICT) courses for humanitarian responders, including Let's Net, ITEMT and OpEx Bravo. When emergency strikes, organisations make their trained personnel available to support the ETC response. LWF has blazed a trail in this regard as one of the first organizations to honour its commitment to outsource specialists to the ETC. Laxman, too, therefore, is a bit of a trendsetter.
With great collaboration and cooperation between humanitarian organisations, local internet and mobile service providers and government partners, the Nepal earthquake response operation has proved to be an almost perfect example of how a cluster should work.
Through his perseverance in securing an enviable place on Let's Net, and support provided to the overall ICT response in Nepal, Laxman is now firmly in the local pool of ETC specialists that may be required to help out not just for this emergency, but for any future disasters. "For this job, the door would not have been opened if I hadn't been able to attend Let's Net."
Now he has his eyes focused on OpEx Bravo, (ETC's largest and most competitive training course) which will be held in Germany in September this year. "I really want to go there," he said. "That's my dream." Knowing Laxman, he won't stop trying until he achieves it.
Suzanne Fenton, World Food Programme (WFP), deployed as ETC Nepal IM Officer
Photo: Laxman Niroula, Lutheran World Federation (WFP/Suzanne Fenton)