Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, June 15, 2015

Nepalese Aiding Nepalese

"I didn't know what I was doing. I've never saved a cat, much less a human being. I'm not a relief worker. I'm just a mom from Arlington."
"He was willing to go where others would not. He was willing to land at altitudes -- 13,000, 14,000, 20,000 feet - that others would not. He said, 'If we don't get to them, who will?'"
"I was there, in Nepal, when a second earthquake hit after the first one, and the morale just sank. There was this sense of hopelessness. Subek's death was similar. I paced around the house for two days. I didn't want to do anything."
"I have a master's degree, but I'll wait tables. I need a morning shift. I'm going to do it in memory of Subek. My little brother."
Samisha LaMeyer, Arlington, Massachusetts
Samisha LaMeyer (center), with Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita (left) and helicopter pilot Subek Shrestha.
Samisha LaMeyer
Samisha LaMeyer (center), with Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita (left) and helicopter pilot Subek Shrestha.

Twenty years ago, Samisha LaMeyer left her home in Kathmandu to become an American citizen. In May she returned to Kathmandu, a loyal Nepalese, and loving daughter to aid her mother who had established a school in the capital of Nepal and who her daughter wanted to see with her own eyes that she was alive and well. Leaving her husband and two daughters behind she left for Kathmandu with 300 pounds of protein bars and other items packed into bags, to take along with her.

She found her mother well. Her mother, Gauri Rana, was sheltering with thousands of others in fields around the school her mother operates for poor students. Knowing her mother would be occupied with looking after things as best she could under the circumstances, Samisha thought of the thousands of Nepalese trapped in out-of-the-way mountain villages, many of which had been destroyed, residents killed and others desperately waiting for subsistence supplies to arrive.

She decided while in Nepal to begin raising funds through her Facebook friends to initiate a method on her own of giving aid where it was most needed. She went to a number of sources looking for helicopters for hire, but found most private helicopter companies charging outrageous sums to make the kind of humanitarian drops she was thinking of. One pilot, Subek Shrestha, was different. He was 28, and a crack pilot, infused with the same sense of needing to respond to the tragedy to aid people.

He had been busy retrieving bodies of the mountains. When he understood what Samisha LaMeyer was intent on doing, he volunteered his services, to return to the mountain villages with rice and supplies. There was an instant rapport between them, and he spoke of the Nepalese woman from the United States as his 'big sister'. She, in return addressed him as little brother: Bhai, to his Didi. And they occupied themselves flying food and supplies to the isolated villages in the mountains.

They formed a triangular team with an experienced climber from Colorado, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, and with a veteran aid worker, Max Khatri. Subek Shrestha knew from his experiences where the need was great and for three weeks the team worked together to deliver aid to desperate survivors. When Samisha LaMeyer returned to the U.S. and her family after that period of time, she and Subek Shrestha kept in touch by email.

He was making profit from chartered flights, and using that profit to plow back into relief efforts. It cost $2,500 as an hourly rate to hire helicopters. "I would love to fly your helicopter, Didi", responded the  young man, when his friend in Arlington informed him she intended to buy a helicopter of her own. And this was the last message that passed between them. Flying a mission with three doctors from Doctors Without Borders, the helicopter Shrestha was piloting crashed.

All aboard were killed. As a tribute to the young man LaMeyer contacted his family for permission to go immediately back to the work of helping people in Nepal, rather than wait the customary 13 days as a memorial to the dead. Now, she and a network of volunteers have dedicated themselves to evacuating 200 students from a monastery 18,000 feet high up in the mountains where Shrestha had dropped rice.

The monsoons are expected to arrive in the near future, and the removal of the students from the monastery has become an emergency project they have committed themselves to. To raise the kind of money she needs to continue working on aid for the earthquake victims of Nepal, Samisha LaMeyer is determined to work any kind of job that will bring her closer to fulfilling her goal. In memory of her 'little brother'.

Arlington resident and Nepali native Samisha Joshi LaMeyer, at left, delivers supplies to the Gorkha district of Nepal. Courtesy Photo

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