Sherpa returns to homeland of Nepal to check on family, children

When Nepal was hit by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on April 25, 2015, Danu Sherpa didn't even have to think about it; he knew he had to go back to his home country.

When Nepal was hit by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on April 25, 2015, Danu Sherpa didn’t even have to think about it; he knew he had to go back to his home country.

He booked a flight that same night, calling a colleague at the City of Redmond’s parks and recreation department to tell him that he was going back to Kathmandu, Nepal. The Renton resident, who grew up just east of Kathmandu, said whatever consequences he would face upon his return for leaving on such short notice wouldn’t matter. All that mattered was that he was there with and for his family — some of whom died last year in the earthquake.

As previously reported, Sherpa’s coworkers rallied, supporting him and his efforts, initially collecting money during lunch. This quickly evolved into an online campaign on GoFundMe at that has since brought in more than $23,000.

About two weeks ago, Sherpa returned from his second trip to Nepal since the earthquake — his first post-earthquake trip back since last year. He spent about a month there, again checking in on family, but this time around, his trip was more focused on the 20 children — soon to be 21 — he has since been sponsoring to go to school.

“I got to meet them,” Sherpa said, adding that he had only met a few of the children when he was in Nepal last year. “They’re doing good.”

This time around, Sherpa traveled to Nepal with Mike Brown, a colleague who has worked with him at the City of Redmond for 11 years. Brown said in addition to the children Sherpa is sponsoring, they had the opportunity to meet some of the children’s parents during a ceremony in Sherpa’s honor.

“The parents had tears in their eyes when meeting Danu, probably from knowing that he is giving them a chance to succeed in a place where chances are few and far between,” Brown said.

While some of the children Sherpa is sponsoring still have parents, many among the group of 21 are now orphans whose parents died in the earthquake last year. In Nepali culture, it is typically the father who provides everything for the family and Sherpa said without parents, these children — who range from 3-9 years old — were living on the streets.

“They can’t go to school,” he said.

Sherpa said it has been joyful for him to go back to Kathmandu and see the children’s smiles and how happy they are to know someone has been supporting them.

Through Sherpa’s sponsorship, the children now attend and live at the school, which spans 10 grades and is for children and young adults from 1-20 years old. He said prior to last year’s earthquake, he had not known the 21 kids he is sponsoring.

“When I went (to Kathmandu), I saw all the destruction,” Sherpa said. “(I felt) I should do something.”

Sherpa said he is also working to bring his youngest son, who is 14, over from Nepal to live with him.

In addition to sponsoring the children to go to school, Sherpa also raised money to build a new school as the old one had been destroyed in the earthquake.

Initially, when Sherpa traveled to Kathmandu last year, he worked to help set up a shelter before working to build the current school. He said the school now has close to 300 kids living and enrolled there.

And while the school is up and running, Sherpa said the same cannot be said about the rest of the Nepalese capital. He said there is a lot of development going on, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

“People are still scared,” he said about the potential of more big earthquakes that would force people to just rebuild again.

“What I found in Nepal was amazing,” said Brown. “The Nepali people are incredibly resilient. Life is not easy for the average person. Things we take for granted in America like public education, drinking water, electricity, a heated home are all hard to come by. There is no social services.”

He said he has wanted to travel to Nepal with Sherpa for quite a while and in the last year since the earthquake, has read that the best way to help the people of Nepal is to “simply go there and support the tourist industry.”

Brown described Nepal as “a beautiful and amazing country,” saying his travel guidebook said “people come to Nepal the first time for the mountains and return for the people.” A sentiment he agrees with fully.

For those who also feel compelled to do something, Sherpa said he is trying to find more sponsors for more children in Nepal.

“There’s a lot of kids (in need),” he said.

Anyone interested can contact Sherpa at danu