There are moments in life where events collide to twine together two lives like the braids of a rope. Saturday, April 25th, at approximately 11:30AM standing on a gravel road above the tiny village of Karmidanda in the Rasuwa district of Nepal, I felt the twining of life forever tie Jhabraj Neupane's life to mine. It came in the form of 7.9 magnitude earthquake.
Jhabraj, a 46-year-old Nepalese man, lives northwest of Kathmandu where tiny plots of land have been terraced out of the rugged mountainside to grow corn, barley, rice, buckwheat, and garden vegetables. Stake-tied cows and goats are fed from the leaves of trees planted along footpaths weaving each terraced plot to the next. It’s here that for five generations Jhabraj’s family have eked out a primarily subsistence life-style. His 17 year old son hopes to carry on the tradition into the sixth generation. But the quake and the oncoming monsoon threaten to drive the Neupane family off the land and into Kathmandu where they would become refugees in their own country.
Jhabraj lives with his wife, Djanouka, and 82 year old mother, Ama. He is one of 7 surviving siblings from 14. Half his siblings died during childhood. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in World History, he is, I believe, the first university educated member of his family and he struggles daily to scrape together enough funds to send his three children, Awajit, Anjalina, and Alina through university, having amassed a $2000 debt in the process -- more than the the annual wage of the average Nepalese adult. His is the classic betterment story every family hopes to achieve where each successive generation climbs helps the next through hard work and education. Until it all collapsed in the earthquake, leaving his family destitute.
Jhabraj is an English teacher in the local grade school with 16 small rooms holding over 300 students. As the aftermath of the quake unfolded, neighbors and extended family filed around Jhabraj, looking to him for moral support and guidance. He’s too humble to say he’s a leader of his village’s community but he clearly is. In the off moments when he had time to reflect for himself on the tragic loss he and his village suffered, I saw him angrily wiping tears from his eyes – perhaps the hardest thing to witness in a tragedy is adult leaders brought to tears.
For years, Jhabraj has jockeyed between being a trekking guide, teaching, and his duties on the farm. Inviting Westerners to his home to spread the Nepalese culture has been a passion he and Djanouka have shared. They cheerily serve milk tea 2-3 times daily and Dal Bhat, a traditional Nepalese meal, twice daily, accepting donations in return, but asking for nothing -- not even volunteer help around the house. The heart-warming generosity provided not just to me, but the Argentine couple, the doctor from Portland who’s adopted the Neupane family as her own, and the Dutch trekker who were all there during my stay was phenomenal. But the same generosity is shared with each and every person who makes it to the Neupane home. Or did.
For a man who has given infinitely to Westerners interested in Nepalese culture, who has stood as a leader in his community, who has furthered his family through hard work and education, I implore you to help him get back on his feet by contributing to a donation fund in his name. $20,000 will rebuild the Neupane family’s mud and stone home demolished in the quake with a modern structure able to withstand futue quakes. I know the Neupane family has touched more than 2000 souls who each have $10 to chip in to the effort and I ask you to do that now. It’s time for us to give back.
If you’ve never heard the parable of the boy and the starfish, I leave that with you today as you consider donating to Jhabraj's family when so many in Nepal are in similar circumstances:
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!
”May 6th update:
Jhabraj plans to rebuild the home using cement and rebar instead of mud and stone, which is clearly much more expensive. He plans to build the home as an international house, open to international guests, and especially those that have donated. He plans to erect a plaque in front of his home where each donor's name will be added. Please donate and then plan a trip to Nepal to meet this beautiful family!
100% of the proceeds will go directly to Jhabraj's family less funds taken by financial institutions to transact the money to Nepal. In the event I need to personally deliver the money, I will use a portion to cover my airfare only. Note: a kind donor has agreed to cover my airfare if indeed I need to deliver the funds in person!
More information can be found about me on LinkedIn
, and my website: Nomadic Bytes
.Thank you for your time and consideration. If all you can leave is your thoughts and your prayers, I know the Neupane's appreciate them as well.