Looking for light

Local Nepali native seeks the bright spots in earthquake’s aftermath

Saturday's 7.8 earthquake outside of Katmandu, Nepal, has claimed more than 5,000 lives, as well as whole villages.

Saturday's 7.8 earthquake outside of Katmandu, Nepal, has claimed more than 5,000 lives, as well as whole villages.

Photo by Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi / UNDP Nepal

Help the cause:

Visit Sanjay Dev's fundraising site at www.gofundme.com/savemynepal.

Sanjay Dev might be one of the most delightful people in Chico. A professor of math at both Chico State and Butte College, he offers smiles freely—even to strangers—everywhere he goes. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot to smile about right now. His home country of Nepal has been hit by the worst natural disaster there since the 1930s.

“When I initially got the phone call, around midnight on Saturday, I was up for 48 hours on the phone, and watching the news, trying to reach everyone,” Dev said during a recent interview. “I have many family members in Katmandu—I’m thankful most of them are accounted for.”

Saturday’s quake, which registered a 7.8, was centered about 50 miles northwest of the Nepalese capital of Katmandu. As of press time, there were more than 5,000 reported deaths—and that number was predicted to rise to 10,000 by the time search teams are finished. In addition to human life, a number of cultural heritage sites were devastated.

“Seeing all those places I used to go just [crumble] in front of my eyes …” Dev said, trailing off. “They are no longer there.”

Regardless of his feelings of sadness for his home country and the people there, Dev remains positive, insisting on seeing the bright side of the situation.

“I heard a story of a couple [who work at] Enloe who were hiking in Nepal,” he said. “They gave up everything—maybe it was their lifelong dream—and they’re out there operating, helping out. People out there, like them, inspire me.”

He also pointed to stories of other tourists in the region who, instead of looking out for their own comfort, dropped their travel plans to help the devastated country. And aid organizations have acted quickly, sending much-needed supplies to the region. Dev is also inspired to aid the effort, starting a GoFundMe site to collect funds that he will direct to organizations that provide food and medicine to those in need.

“Those are the immediate needs,” he explained.

He said he’s been particularly touched by the stories of Barpak and Laprak, two villages near the epicenter of the quake that were nearly leveled. People in those villages are the epitome of Nepal, he said, and part of the reason tourists want to visit the country. Of course, they visit for the natural beauty—Mount Everest, in particular, is a sight to behold and, for trekkers, a quest to be conquered. And there’s the religion—Nepal is known as a spiritual mecca. But a less tangible reason to visit is for the “magic,” Dev said, which is embodied by the Nepali people, who are naturally kind and generous.

“The villagers, when a tourist stops by during a hike, will be the first people to invite them into their little mud huts and feed them what little food they have and offer them a place to stay for the night,” he said. “And they want nothing in return. There is no ulterior motive. That is the beauty of Nepal.”

He therefore wants 100 percent of the money he raises, at least at first, to go to those two villages. He added that, put in perspective, $50 can provide food for a family of four for one month.

Dev, who has been in the United States 35 years but visits his home country often, is particularly conscious of organizations seeking to take advantage of the situation and make money—rather than distributing it in aid—off of Nepal’s pain and suffering. He urges those who want to give, even if they choose not to give to him, to research groups asking for money to ensure they are giving to a reputable source. He recommends St. Xavier’s Social Service Center, World Vision, AmeriCorps, the Seva Foundation and UNICEF, as he knows first-hand that they have a reputation for good work in Nepal.

“What I do, maybe it’s minimal, but I want to be a part of it,” Dev said. “This is going to be a long process. It will take years to rebuild the country.”