May 12 earthquake shakes shattered country

By Tyler Allen EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – On May 12, another powerful quake shook Nepal, a country struggling to recover from the devastating earthquake on April 25 that killed more than 8,000 people.

The latest tremor, reported as a 7.3-magnitude by the U.S. Geological Survey, was centered near the town of Namche Bazaar, close to Mount Everest and the Chinese border. Dozens of causalities were reported and massive landslides hampered relief efforts for people affected by the April disaster.

Dr. Peter Schmieding, a dentist practicing in Big Sky, Four Corners and Ennis, has been in Nepal since May 3 helping with the recovery through his nonprofit, Tsering’s Fund. Schmieding created the organization in 2007 with his wife Karen Fellerhoff and their friend Tsering Dolkar Lama, a Tibetan woman living in Katmandu. Tsering’s Fund uses donations to support the education of Nepalese girls, but has now shifted its focus to earthquake relief.

“We are fine,” Schmieding wrote May 12 on his Facebook page. “Earthquake hit while Tsering and I were eating lunch … Things [are] somewhat chaotic here, but this area of Katmandu [was] relatively unscathed, but really scary.”

Villages outside of the capital weren’t so lucky. Pem Dorgee Sherpa in Chyangba, a village 200 kilometers northeast of Katmandu, messaged Schmieding to tell him Chyangba was completely destroyed by the latest quake. Dorgee said they needed 50 tents and rice – the villagers couldn’t get into their demolished homes where food is stored.

young guy carryingAid from around the world is pouring into Nepal, though Schmieding reports that transporting supplies has been slow from the airport to the more remote villages in need.

Eric Ladd and Wes Overvold from Big Sky’s Outlaw Partners (and publisher of EBS) left Bozeman on May 12 to help with the relief effort and document the country’s recovery. They brought seven canvas wall tents and care packages that were put together by Jeremy Harder’s fourth grade class at Big Sky’s Ophir School. Outlaw and L&K Real Estate purchased the tents, provided by Belgrade’s Montana Canvas at a 50 percent discount.

“This is a terrible situation. These people need help and aren’t getting it from the [Nepal] government,” said Montana Canvas General Manager Curt Heinert. “Even if you’re just helping 10 to 15 people – they’ll need this help for a long time.”

Heinert said Montana Canvas donated between 50 and 100 tents to the relief effort in wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a disaster that killed more than 100,000 people.

“We don’t do this stuff for accolades,” Heinert said. “It’s the goodness of our hearts to help people in need.”

Schmieding said he’s focusing his efforts on Chyangba and two other rural villages where he has connections through Tsering’s Fund’s charitable efforts. He’s delivered 100 large tarps to a village in the Sindhupolchak district, where his friend Raj Kumar Dhakal lives, and where Jyoti Bhandari, one of the Tsering’s Fund-sponsored students, was killed in the April 25 earthquake. She was an 8-year-old first grader.

Schmieding also orchestrated the delivery of 1,000 sheets of corrugated metal roofing to the village of Belawu, which was also devastated by the original quake. Tsering’s Fund had received about $8,000 in donations as of May 13, according to Schmeiding, but all the funds have already been spent on supplies for the villagers.

“If I’m not able to gather enough money through Tsering’s Fund, I will use my own money,” Schmieding messaged on May 12.

In addition to the efforts of Schmieding, Ladd and Overvold on the ground in Nepal, other Big Sky community members are rallying around the disaster relief.

Lone Mountain Ranch is planning a fundraiser for the second Subhadraweekend of June. They plan to host presentations from Schmieding and the Outlaw Partners, as well as a dinner where proceeds will benefit Tsering’s Fund and other organizations committed to earthquake relief efforts. Members of MSU’s Nepalese student association will also be at the event to speak about their home country.

LMR General Manager Paul Robertson has a personal connection to the shattered country. Roberston spent nine months in Nepal during a University of Wisconsin study abroad program, in 1991 and 1992.

“I’m forever grateful for the friendships I made in Nepal and they treated me like family,” Robertson said. “Now that so many Nepalis are in need, it’s important to me to try and make a difference.”

Robertson said the initial disaster response is generally not sufficient for a crisis of this magnitude, and the effort must continue until the country is recovered.

“It’s going to be the sustained effort that helps Nepal properly recover.”

Visit tseringsfund.com and click the “donate” button to contribute to Dr. Schmieding’s continued earthquake relief efforts in Nepal.