When four women from Montana planned their travel to Nepal and trek through Mount Everest, they decided to raise money to help rebuild homes in Thangpalkot, a village in the Himalayan foothills. Without a strong economy to repair itself, the mountain villages did not see a fast recovery—like in the capital city Kathmandu—after the Gorka earthquake in 2015. While the earthquake destroyed 86 homes in the village, only 14 have been rebuilt, 13 of which were funded by private donations like the women’s charity. Since the women quickly met their goal of raising $2000 — enough money to rebuild one house for a family in the village — they now hope to double that amount. Their trip to Nepal began in May, and they hope that their action will inspire more people, as they continue to raise money through their crowd-funding website.
Mountains have always been central to the relationship between Montana and Nepal. Both benefit from more than 8% of the jobs coming from tourism, and similarities encourage cooperative exchanges between Glacier National Park and Sagarmatha National Park. For both locations, mountains are some of the last glacier-fed water systems, and face similar problems such as over-visitation and effects from climate change. Following the earthquake, a research team was mounted by University of Montana geosciences professor, Rebecca Bendick, and was sent weeks after the incident to analyze and develop forecasts of the remaining seismic stress. Nepalese graduate students organized fundraising campaigns on campus, and the nuns and monks from the center for Buddhist studies, located at a former sheep ranch in Montana, helped dig neighbors out of the debris. In December 2016, a proclamation was signed by then President Barack Obama, which implemented a trade preference program for Nepali products to enter the United States without import taxes for 10 years. Montana companies like Everest Designs, which imports goods from a factory in Bhaktapour, Nepal, benefits from the program, where they will save 12% in taxes on the sweaters they export, for example.
Yumiko Kozu is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an exchange student at Dartmouth College.