Summit County locals send aid to remote Nepalese villages after April 25 quake
Nepal earthquake relief
When a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal on April 25, it decimated the region’s most remote towns. The quake and ensuing avalanches have destroyed 130,000 homes and forced 2.8 million people to evacuate. How Summit County locals can support relief efforts:
Doctors to the World
A local nonprofit founded by aid worker Doc PJ, who has traveled to the Nepalese village of Langtang several times per year for the past 20 years. Monetary donations can be sent to:
Doctors to the World
PO Box 6879
Breckenridge, CO 80424
Remote Nepal fund — www.gofundme.com/remotenepal
Started by Candace Taylor, whose fiancée, Tim Bruns of Rebel Sports in Copper, is currently stranded in Nepal with his father after attempting a trip to Mount Everest base camp. He’s currently volunteering with aid efforts until he can return home. All proceeds are tax deductible and will be distributed through the Bruns’ charity, Images for Change Inc. based in Maryland.
HiMaLuna Adventures fund — www.gofundme.com/tekmqs
Started by Debbie and Chandra Pun, a local couple who founded a Himalayan trekking company based in Summit. Their goal is to raise $10,000 for food, water and medical supplies. Chandra, a Nepal native, will distribute the supplies when he travels home to volunteer with relief workers in May.
Himalayan Cuisine dining fundraiser
The Frisco restaurant is donating 10 percent of daily sales in May to a support fund for a village in the Gulmi district of Nepal. In 2011, owners Ashim and Bidhya K.C. helped repair a school built by Bidhya’s father. The school was demolished by the quake. All proceeds collected in Frisco and at two Front Range locations will support reconstruction.
To donate through larger organizations, local relief volunteers recommend dZi Foundation, Mercy Corps, DirectRelief, Doctors Without Borders, Resurge International and International Committee of the Red Cross. All are highly rated by Charity Navigator, a nonprofit evaluation group, and tend to focus on isolated rural regions.
Early on the morning of April 30, less than a week after a massive earthquake decimated the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, Doc PJ was in Sudan when he received an email from a young Nepalese doctor, Mipsang Lama.
For the past 20 years, PJ — his full name is C. Louis Perrinjaquet but most locals know the tireless aid worker by his nickname — has split time between Summit County and a trio of the world’s poorest and most isolated regions: Honduras, the Nuba Mountains in Sudan and the village of Langtang, where he first met Mipsang as a child.
“Uncle PJ,” as Mipsang calls the longtime Summit local, helped pay for his medical school in Kathmandu and stays in regular contact with Mipsang’s father, Thiley Lama. The elder Lama is village chairman of Kyanjin Gompa, another small village found uphill from Langtang, and was recently named Nepal’s envoy to the Dalai Lama.
“I can’t explain how bad it went out here,” Mipsang wrote to PJ from a makeshift refugee camp in Kathmandu, the country’s capital. “Langtang don’t exist anymore … worst ever happened.”
Mipsang’s email came as thousands of residents and foreign trekkers were searching for ways to evacuate Langtang. The 7.8-magnitude quake caused avalanches and mudslides throughout the rocky, isolated region at the foot of the Himalayas.
It’s a must-see stop for mountaineers, but it’s also one of the poorest regions in one of the world’s poorest nations. Nearly 130,000 homes were destroyed by the quake, displacing roughly 2.8 million residents and killing an estimated 10,000, according to an April 30 report from The Guardian.
At Langtang, Mipsang told PJ the situation was even bleaker: only one-third of the village’s 500 residents survived the quake and ensuing slides. After waiting for several days with no emergency aid, the remaining population began searching through the rubble to recover bodies and hopefully find more survivors, even as the threat of disease and heavy monsoon rains added to the confusion.
“Are you in Kathmandu living in a tent?” PJ replied. “How badly was your house in KTM damaged? Have you been able to work as a doctor at any of the hospitals or aid groups there? I have so many questions. I wish I was there to help with the medical work and to just be with you and your family.”
Like Langtang and surrounding villages, Kathmandu was devastated by the quake. Nearly 100,000 residents have already left the city of one million, with an additional 300,000 expected to flee as relief workers arrive and aftershocks continue to rock old, historic buildings.
While Mipsang waited for news about his family in Kyanjin, he again turned to PJ, who’s also flitting in and out of satellite range while delivering water pump repair kits to equally remote areas of the Sudan mountains. Mipsang was worried for his family: Their home village is a three-day trek from Kathmandu under normal conditions, and with just about every trail destroyed between the city and outlying villages, relief efforts are more or less stalled.
Then Mipsang heard devastating news. His grandmother, a 90-year-old who PJ calls “the last queen of Langtang,” died in the quake, along with Mipsang’s uncle, aunt, brother and sister-in-law. His parents survived the devastation in Kyanjin, but like their neighbors, the two are stranded indefinitely while emergency workers slowly travel between the most isolated villages.
“We lost everything … in fact too many relatives …,” Mipsang wrote on May 1. “More than 200 people are missing … from today onwards it started to search for the dead.”
Beyond the Langtang district, remote villages in every portion of the Kathmandu Valley were hit hardest by the quake. These villages rarely receive support even when conditions are relatively normal, said Karen Lapides, a Breckenridge local who accompanied PJ on his first trip to Langtang.
“They rely on so many local resources, like the cheese factory and yaks. Now, they’ll have to rebuild all those structures. They’re tedious to make, just built with stones hand by hand.”
In Summit County, a slew of locals like PJ have banded together to form relief funds and organize other support efforts for the overlooked portions of Nepal. The owners of HiMaLuna Adventures, a local trekking company with guided trips in the Himalayas, have started an online fund to raise money for food and medical supplies. Co-owner and Nepal native Chandra Pun wants to deliver the provisions in person sometime in the next month, but for now all travel to Nepal is limited to official volunteer organizations only.
Jim Howard, pastor at Dillon Community Church, has visited Nepal once or twice per year for the past 10 years. He teaches in the outlying villages of Kathmandu — or suburbs, to use the Western term — and began hearing stories about homelessness, looting and overall confusion on Monday, shortly before his students lost contact after their phone and laptop batteries began dying.
“When the earthquake hit, I started getting texts and Facebook posts about how horrendous is was out there,” Howard says. “Many of them are just terrified. They say the ground won’t stop shaking, they have no homes and no shelter to go to, and as of Monday the people I know hadn’t seen any emergency workers.”
For Mipsang, relief efforts are spread much too thin. The capital city is in shambles and the government seems overwhelmed by endless requests for help. With nowhere else to turn, he’ll continue writing to Uncle PJ.
“Right now govt is controlling over everything, all funds from different countries, all kinds of aids, all NGO’s … govt has taken control but not effective at all,” Mipsang wrote on May 1. “I cried four whole days in the airport asking for rescue flight for mom and dad … fortunately they did survive themselves … now we have house nowhere, living in tent … so once we have plan I will let u know … please come back soon.”
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