Nepal earthquake relief trip sparks nonprofit focused on rebuilding


Hem Rai led a relief trip to earthquake-stricken Nepal in May that helped more than 1,000 people in need. During the trek, Rai and other volunteers realized the next step is long-term rebuilding.

That’s why they formed GlobalHealthandEducation (all one word), a new nonprofit that will build schools and teach preventative health in Nepal. Plans eventually call for the nonprofit to serve other Third World countries.

“All this came together because of what saw and what we did in Nepal,” said Rai, a Nepal native and owner of the Earth’s Elements shop in Encinitas. “It touched our hearts and made us feel like we want to give more.”

In October, Rai and the GlobalHealthandEducation volunteers will go back to Nepal to help build two schools in remote areas. One school will go in Nowakot and another in Rasuwa, which each lost a school when the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck in April.

During the May relief trip, the volunteers set up medical camps in those areas. Rai said locals were “incredibly thankful” for the support. But, he added, the volunteers saw firsthand how much schools are needed now, because young students lack places to learn.

“The people there know education is important,” he said. “They want schools as fast as possible.”

Rai said volunteers will bring materials and expertise to Nepal, but the goal is to partner with locals on the two schools.

“If they contribute their sweat, then they feel like the school is their own, and not something we built for them,” he said.

For the May relief trip, Rai raised more than $14,500 online and at his store, which went toward blankets, tents, first-aid kits and more.

The 17 people from Southern California, including doctors and nurses, who went on the May expedition paid for their own flights. During future GlobalHealthandEducation trips, volunteers will follow suit so overhead costs remain low, Rai said.

Preventive health is another focus of the nonprofit. Rai said many people in Third World countries have misconceptions about how to treat serious health problems.

GlobalHealthandEducation aims to reach remote areas that governments or other nonprofits might overlook.

For Rai, leading expeditions is familiar territory. He has guided climbing treks throughout Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan as part of Kirat Treks, his outdoor adventure company that’s a side business.

And Rai grew up in the small mountain village of Helwabasi, making navigating practically second nature.

With so many roads destroyed or washed out in Nepal, the skill was critical during the May trip.

“A lot of infrastructure needs to be rebuilt,” Rai said.

GlobalHealthandEducation just started fundraising. Those looking to donate can do so at once the website goes live in two weeks. But for now, donate by emailing Rai at or visit Earth’s Elements, at 559 S. Coast Highway 101.