When an earthquake shook Nepal in April, the water rose and floods ensued — totally damaging a local chef’s family home and surroundings.
Prashant Lama’s family lost their home when their village of Golche was “hit hard” by the quake, said Zur Goldblum, proprietor of Pomegranate, a Carnegie Mellon University dining facility specializing in Middle Eastern, Israeli and Turkish options prepared at Congregation Beth Shalom’s kosher kitchen under the supervision of its rabbi.
“Most of the village is destroyed — homes, the road to it, the local school and more,” Lama said.
Lama, who immigrated to the United States in 2012, began working with Goldblum in Beth Shalom’s kitchen space, where he prepares food for community events, and then followed him to CMU.
In between serving his customers at the university —“yes, that comes with a side salad,” he could be heard to say repeatedly — Lama, 28, spoke about his family in Nepal in a recent phone interview.
“After a month, finally, I get to talk to my family,” he said, describing limited access to his family’s village. The small community is nestled in the Himalayan Mountains, north of Kathmandu. He said the cell phone reception has been spotty, and visitors are only able to reach the village by helicopter.
Lama’s parents and brother, and his brother’s family, live in an area where schools, homes and the main water supply were ravaged because of the earthquake and subsequent flooding. Without the ability to attain visas, his family is stuck living in the disaster zone, he said.
To make matters worse, after all 150 homes in the village were destroyed, it is now monsoon season; daily rains and a homeless population do not mix, he said. “They are all living outside.”
Pomegranate Catering held a traditional Nepali dinner of rice, lentils, curry and green vegetables on June 7 at Beth Shalom. The $8,300 raised at the benefit will help to rebuild the village, according to promotional materials provided by Goldblum.
Lama said he will carry most of the proceeds of the fundraiser with him when he travels to his village in September — taking off for eight weeks from his job to purchase food such as rice, flour, oil and salt for the community and take further stock of its needs.
He is grateful to Goldblum, whom he called a generous boss and a friend. Lama will temporarily leave behind his Pittsburgh-born wife — the couple met in Nepal years ago — and their 5-month-old son, as accommodations will be limited. He hopes to visit schools in his village and make plans to build furniture, acquire books and form a timeline to rebuild homes, once the rains cease.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the rural middle and northern sections of Nepal, and according to news reports and social media, a second earthquake struck Lama’s home village in mid-May, setting back construction and damaging some of the homes that were already being rebuilt.
Lama said he looks forward to seeing exactly how far the money will go once he makes it back home, a nearly 8,000-mile journey from Pittsburgh.
Bee Schindler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.