Liberal Arts' Sherpa contributes to Nepal relief efforts

June 16, 2015

Pasang Sherpa, a lecturer in the College of the Liberal Arts’ Department of Anthropology at Penn State, will devote her time this summer to assisting the people affected by recent earthquakes in her home country of Nepal. 

Sherpa was born and raised in the Nepalese city of Kathmandu -- the largest city and capital of the country. But her family is originally from the region of Pharak, in the Mount Everest area. The villages in this region were severely damaged by the first earthquake on April 25; when the second earthquake hit on May 12, what was left was virtually destroyed. 

When Sherpa and her husband arrived in Nepal after the first earthquake, they visited Pharak to assess the damage. 

“The situation was worse than we thought,” said Sherpa. “Somewhere between 70-80 percent of houses were not safe to live in.” 

Soon after their assessment, the second earthquake occurred -- further damaging the region’s infrastructure. 

Of the second quake’s impact, Sherpa said, “Houses that had still been standing were gone. Schools that had been starting to reopen were gone.” 

“We need to move toward holistic rebuilding. I think it’s going to take years, and we’re just getting started.”

-- Pasang Sherpa, a lecturer in the College of the Liberal Arts’ Department of Anthropology

Though the Nepalese government, the international community and nongovernmental organizations are coming together to help the displaced population in Nepal, Sherpa realizes more help is needed. Immediately, the people of Pharak -- and across the country -- need relief in the form of shelter, food and medical supplies. But in the long-term, they will need help rebuilding. 

“We need to move toward holistic rebuilding,” she said. “I think it’s going to take years, and we’re just getting started.”

Though the situation in Nepal is dire, Sherpa says she is hopeful for the future. 

“I saw how our communities worked together to help each other. In the villages, people provided blankets and food to each other when they could. And the younger generation is really stepping up to come together.”

In addition to spending time this summer in Nepal to provide on-the-ground assistance, Sherpa has started an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to support the more than 4,000 people impacted in the Pharak region. 

The Penn State community has already been involved through an on-campus fundraiser managed by Nepalese Penn State students, and Sherpa hopes that support will continue. But, she says, the best way to help Nepal at this time is to stay informed of the situation. 

“It’s easy to forget about what happened in Nepal and think about the next story, but we really need to keep the situation there relevant nationally,” she said.  

Sherpa, who has worked in her current position since 2013, studies the perception of climate change among the Nepalese people. She holds a doctorate and a master of arts in anthropology from Washington State University and a bachelor of arts in social science from Lewis-Clark State College. 

  • A woman and two men work to assess damaged homes.

    Pasang Sherpa and engineer volunteer Krishna Bhetwaal assess damage caused by a falling rock inside a home in the village of Jorsalle. After the first earthquake, a giant rock rolled into the home; after the second quake, the home was completely demolished and uninhabitable. 

    IMAGE: Pasang Sherpa
  • A woman stands in front of a makeshift shelter in Nepal

    A woman stands in front of a makeshift shelter in Nepal, salvaging her belongings. Because of the earthquakes, she is unable to return to her home.

    IMAGE: Pasang Sherpa
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(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 26, 2015