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PKG | GoFundMe, Bitcoin: How tech is helping Nepal earthquake victims

WINCHESTER, Va. - Sapana Ojha, a sophomore at Shenandoah University is 6,000 miles from her family in Nepal. The distance however, hasn’t stopped her and her classmate, Kriti Hada, from setting up a GoFundMe account to raise money for their home country's earthquake relief effort.

"Right now, we’ve got the GoFundMe account set up, and we’ve already raised some money,” Ojha told WHAG from SU’s campus Wednesday afternoon. “We are just ready to go to Nepal and spend that money buying water purification tablets, masks, some sanitary pads - whatever we can do," Ojha said.

GoFundMe is the world’s largest fundraising website. Ojha and Hada said they turned to the site when they wanted to start a fundraising campaign, because they had a friend who had used the site before, it was accessible and easy to use.

GoFundMe however charges fees for their services.

“They do charge a fee,” Ojha said. “I’m not sure how much, but if we reach our fundraising goal [of $5,000], a small percentage will be taken from that.”

For those wanting to see 100 percent of their donation go to a cause they care about, some are turning to bitcoin.

Bitcoin is the world’s first decentralized, digital currency. Decentralized, because it isn’t owned by any bank, government, business or person and digital, because bitcoin lives online, much like your email address. Bitcoin is a currency, just like the dollar or euro, and can be bought, sold, traded and exchanged. (At the time of this article, the current exchange rate for one bitcoin is approximately $231 U.S. dollars.)

With minimal to no transaction fees, bitcoin is becoming a currency of choice when it comes to charitable contributions.

“We do not charge a fee [to process a bitcoin donation] at this time,” said Victoria van Eyk, Vice president of community development for, a website dedicated to sending bitcoin through social media.

No transaction fees mean 100 percent of your bitcoin donation will go to your charitable cause of choice.

To contribute bitcoin, all you need is an internet connection, a non-profit organization that accepts bitcoin - like the International Federation of Red Cross, and someone to process the donation, like

“If you wanted to send bitcoin through Twitter, you’d type in ‘@redcross here’s $5 [worth of bitcoin] @changetip’,” van Eyk explained. “The money would immediately be sent to the Red Cross.”

According to ChangeTip, over $6,500 worth of bitcoin have been donated to the Red Cross, using their services via Twitter.

Not only are fees negligible compared to credit cards and bank wires, bitcoin can be sent internationally in a matter of minutes, versus a few days compared to bank cards and wire transfers.

“If you've ever logged into a bank account, you may notice a keypad lock at the top of your browser,” van Eyk said. “That’s called cryptography. Every bank uses cryptography to make sure that what is happening behind the scenes is safe and secure."

“Bitcoin is actually a crypto-currency, so the whole thing is built out of cryptography,” van Eyk said. “This is the most secure way to transfer value in the world."

Advocates for bitcoin said another advantage is the fact that no bank account is needed to use bitcoin. For over three billion people in the world without bank accounts, bitcoin now gives them a way to contribute to a global initiative, like helping Nepal’s earthquake victims.

When asked about bitcoin, Ojha said she had never heard of the digital currency before. However, at the end of the day, whether it's food, clothing or bitcoin, Ojha said any donation is welcomed.

"It doesn't matter, dollar…euros, whatever money it is….if people want to help my country, it's the best thing for me."

To learn more about what bitcoin is, visit this link:

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