Summit County fundraiser to benefit Nepal earthquake victims in Langtang
Doc PJ remembers the Langtang region of Nepal. The Breckenridge resident and internationally roaming doctor first traveled to the area about 15 years ago, exploring with a friend. The valley was much less developed than in recent years, when it became known in wider backpacking and adventuring circles as a beautiful location.
Now, PJ knows he would hardly recognize the area — not because it has developed or grown, but because much of it is gone, buried under rubble. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the country of Nepal on April 25, and the subsequent aftershocks, carried particular devastation to the Langtang district, where entire villages and populations were swept away in an instant.
“Before the earthquake, it was this beautiful Himalayan valley with small villages of yak herders and barley farmers,” he said. “Now, it’s all gone. The village of Langtang is under 20 feet of rock.”
This Wednesday, June 10, PJ, his band the Pine Beatles and a handful of other Summit County performers are hosting a fundraiser to benefit the victims of the earthquake. All proceeds from the event will go to PJ’s fund, Doctors To The World, and will be distributed directly to the people in need.
During that first trip to Nepal 15 years ago, PJ met Thiley Lama, a man who traced his ancestry back through the ancient kings of the area. Now, he serves as chairman, or mayor, to the nearby villages.
“He just always maintained that sense of commitment to the community and was recognized as a natural leader to the community,” PJ said.
A few years later, Thiley connected with PJ by satellite phone and told him of his eldest son’s desire to attend medical school and then return home to put his new skills to use. Seeing a chance to sustainably support medical care for the area through a local figure, PJ paid for young Mipsang’s education. Throughout the next decade and a half, PJ himself returned to Nepal six or seven times and helped them build a medical clinic in Langtang.
PJ was in Africa when he heard the news of the April earthquake. Of the many places across the globe he visits when he’s not running his medical practice in Breckenridge, the Nuba Mountains in South Sudan is one he’s visited often in recent years, risking militia attacks and falling bombs to provide medical assistance to refugees fleeing ethnic violence.
He was checking his email in the commander’s headquarters of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army of the North when he saw the reports of the devastation in Nepal.
“And it was like my heart stopped,” he said. “It was unbelievable.”
Fortunately, he also received an email from Mipsang, who was in the capitol at the time of the quake, and survived.
The news was mixed. Mipsang was alive, as were his parents and siblings, but the rest of the family — aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents — and most of their neighbors were dead.
“Langtang doesn’t exist anymore … worst ever happened,” Mipsang wrote. And, in a later email on May 1: “We lost everything … in fact too many relatives … More than 200 people are missing … from today onwards it started to search for the dead.”
HELP FROM AFAR
While still in South Sudan, PJ immediately sent about $2,300 to Nepal through Doctors To The World for emergency shelter. More money is on its way, but PJ knows it still won’t be enough. That’s where the fundraiser comes in.
“We thought about this a month or so back,” said Matt Krane, another member of the Pine Beatles band hosting the event. “It’s really just a gathering of everybody that wants to send energy, money and everything in one direction, in the direction we know it goes straight to them. There’s no middle person, that’s what’s great about Doctors To The World; they have that pipeline figured out.”
Joining the Pine Beatles as entertainment for the evening are local musician Leon Joseph Littlebird, the Mountain Gypsy Tribe belly dancers and several solo local musicians.
Food will be provided by Food Hedz World Café in Frisco, and participants can further donate to the cause by participating in both a live and silent auction. The silent auction items run the gamut from chiropractic and acupuncture certificates to photography and artwork by local artists. The live auction will feature several big items, such as a weeklong vacation package from Breckenridge Grand Vacations and an “event package” that incorporates a gig with the Pine Beatles, a photographer and a keg of Breckenridge Brewery beer.
PJ will be sending the money along to Nepal and plans to follow up with a visit sometime this upcoming September.
“It makes more sense for me to stay home and send money,” he said, not wanting to arrive and put further strain on an area already filled with aid workers from around the globe.
Even being in contact with Mipsang, and letting him know about the efforts in Summit County, is a way for PJ to help from afar.
“Every time I talk to Mipsang, it really means a lot to know the rest of the world hasn’t forgotten and is helping,” PJ said. “The emotional support means a lot.”
Both he and Krane encourage anyone and everyone to attend the event, have some fun and support the cause.
“It will just be a fun event,” PJ said. “It’s a chance to get together with each other and feel good about being able to help another mountain community.”
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