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Nepal native raising funds for earthquake relief trip

Hem Rai at his Encinitas store, Earth’s Elements. A sign in front of him promotes Californians for Nepal, a relief effort he spearheaded. Photo by Jared Whitlock
Hem Rai at his Encinitas store, Earth’s Elements. A sign in front of him promotes Californians for Nepal, a relief effort he spearheaded. Photo by Jared Whitlock

Hem Rai, owner of Earth’s Elements in Encinitas, is asking for help. And time is of the essence.

Rai, 36, plans to lead a relief trip to Nepal’s Sindhupalchok District, which was hard hit by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck April 25. He explained in a May 3 interview that remote parts of Sindhupalchok are in need because most aid efforts have focused on Kathmandu, the country’s capital.

Many in Sindhupalchok lost their homes, and to make matters worse, the monsoon season is approaching. Monsoon rains increase the likelihood of water-borne diseases and landslides, particularly for those without shelter.

“Monsoon season creates very challenging conditions,” Rai said. “It’s very important these people get help now.”

He added the group, called Californians for Nepal, will provide blankets, tents, first-aid kits, rice, cookware and other supplies.

To donate, visit gofundme.com/t8gywms. A link to the page can also be found at earthselementsonline.com.

Also, Earth’s Elements, 559 S. Coast Highway 101, is taking donations of sleeping bags, medical supplies and other necessities until Sunday, May 10.

Local doctors, a nurse, a paramedic and others have signed up to join Rai in the quest to deliver supplies and provide aid.

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

Rai grew up in the small mountain village of Helwabasi. Though navigating through Nepal’s remote regions, where the relief need is greatest, can be difficult, it’s practically second nature to him.

“Growing up, you don’t have to practice to be a mountain guide,” Rai said. “You’re already a mountain guide. You’re born with it.”

Friends and family back in Helwabasi were largely unaffected by the earthquake. Still, he knows people throughout Nepal who have seen or been affected by the destruction.

“People have lost their homes and just don’t know what to do,” Rai said, adding, “I know where people haven’t been helped.”

As of May 5, the earthquake’s death toll was 7,500, with another 14,500 injured. Those numbers are expected to increase.

The idea for the trip came right after the April 25 earthquake, when an employee of Earth’s Elements put out a jar seeking donations for relief efforts. For Rai, it was a deciding moment.

“I thought, ‘If I want to help, then I want to be all the way in or out.’ I decided I could do more.”

Rai’s passion for his home country is well established. During a stint as a tour guide in India, he dreamt of moving to the U.S. and selling goods made by people in his home village, where craft skills are handed down over generations.

He did exactly that when he arrived in the U.S. about a decade ago, opening Himalayan Treasures in Idyllwild not long after. Earth’s Elements followed about three years ago.

So far, the relief effort has brought in critical supplies and raised $6,000, including money donated to gofundme.com/t8gywms and directly to Earth’s Elements.

To maximize funds for those in need, volunteers on the expedition are paying their own way. That said, Rai said the group has about a dozen volunteers so far, and is seeking sponsorships to offset travel costs.

“The volunteers are amazing. They’re taking time away from their families to help.”

Rai said the relief effort could last about a month, though potentially longer. Given the uncertainty, he bought a one-way ticket to stay flexible.

“They need help. And my belief is life matters — no matter where you’re from.”


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