Merrimack students worry for families in Nepal

At a time when most college seniors are focused on celebrations and looking forward to the rest of their lives, Jitendra “Jay” Shrestha '15, and his cousin Santosh Shrestha '16 are raising money to help their countrymen in Nepal who are reeling from recent earthquakes that registered 7.8 and 7.3 on the Richter scale.

Jay, of Haverhill, said he’s talking to his family frequently by telephone to get updates.

Their families are living in makeshift tents made of tarps and too afraid to go into what homes are left standing even though the monsoon season is approaching, Jay said. Aftershocks are scaring people, damaging buildings and causing landslides.

“It pretty much broke my heart,” Jay said. “There’s only so much you can do so far away.”

The Shresthas are taking a leading role raising relief funds. They are using the website that’s run by a cousin in Boston to collect donations for food, clothing, blankets and other essentials to help earthquake victims.

“Charity has to come out of your heart but it’s our job to get the story out,” Jay said.

Merrimack’s Director of International Programs and Assistant Dean of Campus Life Lauren Bent contacted the Shresthas and a Nepalese alum to offer support and see how they were holding up under the news.

“It was important to check in on them and I just wanted them to know Merrimack is obviously aware of what is going on and we’re here to support them,” Bent said. “I asked how can the college support you, what ideas do you have.”

The Shresthas said they wanted to set up a booth in Sakowich Campus Center to educate their schoolmates on Nepal and raise awareness of the first earthquake.

The timing was difficult because it was exams week but they sold T-shirts and pashminas that helped raise about $1,200 in two days.

“I think that just speaks to Merrimack,” Bent said. “We are a tightknit community; despite it was during final exams, everybody wanted to do something to support Nepal and our students in particular.”

Santosh, who lives in Lawrence, got permission from seven small businesses to put out fundraiser cans and he raised another $1,800.

“We send those monies back home and they have been doing pretty good distributing all that money so I thank Merrimack College for initiating that one,” Santosh said. “It’s been great.”

Jay’s family lives about 30 miles outside Katmandu and Santosh’s family lives in the city of Banepa. They have friends and relatives around the country, including Jay’s brother who’s in college in Katmandu.

A relative of Jay’s and Santosh’s was inside her home made of brick and mud eating lunch with a 6-year-old grandchild when the first earthquake struck. Rescuers were able to save the little girl but the woman died of her injuries.

Jay’s father is a retired teacher who works in the real estate business and farms corn and rice. There isn’t much economic opportunity in Nepal so Jay, 25, moved to the United States in 2009 to attend college in Michigan. It didn’t take long for him to hook back toward the east coast and moved to Boston so he could study at Quincy College. After earning his associate’s degree, Jay enrolled in Merrimack and will get a degree in business with a concentration in accounting May 17.

Santosh, of Lawrence arrived in the U.S. in 2009 to attend Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. He also transferred to Quincy to get an associates degree in computer science and then started at Merrimack in 2013 where he’s majoring in information technology.

Jay plans to stay in Massachusetts and is considering job opportunities but Santosh plans to return to Nepal when he graduates.

“I think the biggest thing we can do for our students here is to let them know they are supported, we are here and we care about their country,” Bent said.



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