'We Look Up' documents experiences of former Rutgers student volunteering in Nepal


nepalcourtesyofpaulrando
Photo by Courtesy of Paul Rando |

After helping rebuild houses in Nepal following the 2015 earthquake, Rutgers alumnus Paul Rando began drafting a memoir. He is currently working to publish his book and plans to donate a portion of the profits to the non-profit, All Hands.


Paul Rando, a former Rutgers student, is in the process of publishing a book about his adventures and efforts in disaster relief after Nepal’s 2015 earthquake.

The book is a memoir called "We Look Up." It details his experiences volunteering in Nepal with All Hands, a U.S. based non-profit that addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters.

Rando, who graduated Rutgers in 2015, said he contributed to building 50 homes in the Sindhupalchok district of Nepal.

“I led teams to clear rubble in Sindhupalchok, worked on the foundations for two schools in the Nuwakot district and participated in the All Hands on Everest Challenge,” Rando said in an email.

He said his book also covers some stories from before and after his time in Nepal, including how the All Hands Volunteers staff dealt with a fuel crisis in late 2015, and how one friend from his trip started her own non-government organization, called Trek Relief, that assists those in the earthquake-stricken Langtang region of Nepal.

Rando has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the publishing of his book and plans to donate a quarter of the proceeds back to Trek Relief and All Hands.

“I will also touch on the issue of the 'White Man's Burden,' a.k.a. the assumption in lots of international volunteer work that our services are wanted and beneficial,” Rando said. “I will do my best to argue that the work All Hands Volunteers did (and is still doing) in Nepal has been extremely beneficial to the communities we worked in.”

He got the idea to write his book a week before he arrived in Nepal to work with All Hands, he said.

“I had just finished reading 'All Hands,' which is founder David Campbell's book about how he came to start the organization in the wake of the 2004 tsunami. There, he worked in Bang Tao in Thailand and I was living in Thailand, teaching English at the time I read it, which was kind of cool for me,” Rando said.

He noticed that the book did not describe a lot from the volunteer’s perspective, he said.

“I reached out to David Campbell and current All Hands Volunteers CEO Erik Dyson to ask what they thought about doing a 'volunteer on the ground' kind of book, and they, in turn, put me in contact with Chief Marketing Officer Elizabeth Davis-Edwards who has been nothing but supportive, encouraging me to write my true, honest account of my volunteer experience,” Rando said.

His idea to write developed further before he left Thailand when the All Hands Volunteers announced their first All Hands on Everest Challenge.

The Everest challenge is a charity event that takes place at one of the mountain's base camps. 

“I immediately signed up, and I knew that experience would also be great to document,” Rando said.

He said that he preferred to keep an in-hand paper journal to log his experiences.

“Even before the trek, I preferred to do it on paper. I had a black journal my co-workers in Thailand gave me on my last day,” Rando said. “My log was very basic, though, just a list of things that happened. I rarely went in depth unless there was something extreme or particularly complicated to make note of.”

He said that despite the fact that Nepal feels like a second home to him and that he plans to go back after he finishes his book, he does not think it made him a better person. 

He said regardless, that it has added a slew of new experiences to his life. 

“I think it's something of a fallacy to say that volunteering makes you a better person. I don't really feel like a different person than I was before I went, except that now I have been there,” Rando said. “In other words, it hasn't really changed who I am. But it has changed what I've seen and what I've done.”

Rando’s bucket list swelled to three times its original size after he got to Nepal, he said. He left wanting to trek the Annapurna Circuit, the Langtang region, Mera Peak and all of the major routes in the area. 

With all of the problems in the world today, many people feel that there’s nothing they can do to make a difference, he said. 

“Go out there, get your hands dirty, work up a sweat. There are a hundred different ways to help,” Rando said. “Is building one house going to solve the homelessness problem? No, but you sure as hell made one family a lot happier. Is building one school going to change the world? No, but those 20 to 50 kids have an education and a way to stay away from human traffickers.”

He said interested students should visit the All Hands Volunteers website, and that there are other organizations where students can make a difference, such as Habitat for Humanity, Team Rubicon and the PeaceCorps.

“Kickstarter funding is all or nothing, so if we don't reach the fundraising goal, publication will be indefinitely delayed. This will be a real shame because I plan to donate 25 percent of proceeds after publication to All Hands Volunteers and Trek Relief,” he said.

Students interested in supporting his book should go and donate on their Kickstarter site, Rando said.

“You can make a difference in the world,” he said.



Thomas Lohan is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.


Thomas Lohan

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