Silicon Valley Touches Nepali People Hurt by Earthquake

In November, Alicia Forbrich (center in blue) visited the Gorkha region of Nepal that is now at the epicenter of the earthquake. She is working with the director of the Gorkha Foundation, Bijaya Devkota, on her left, to get relief to residents. To her right is the principal of the Gorkha Elementary School, a sister school to the San Jose Learning Center. The ladies all received micro-loans to create business enterprises to allow them to help support their families. The other two men in the photo are teachers at the elementary school.

In November, Alicia Forbrich (center in blue) visited the Gorkha region of Nepal that is now at the epicenter of the earthquake. She is working with the director of the Gorkha Foundation, Bijaya Devkota, on her left, to get relief to residents. To her right is the principal of the Gorkha Elementary School, a sister school to the San Jose Learning Center. The ladies all received micro-loans to create business enterprises to allow them to help support their families. The other two men in the photo are teachers at the elementary school.

By Sharon Simonson

A November journey to a remote Nepal region by the owner of a San Jose language school has established an unexpected lifeline to the leaders of a devastated community.

Working with the Gorkha Foundation, Alicia Forbrich, founder and owner of the San Jose Learning Center, visited the Gorkha district in Nepal last year, bringing school supplies and doing research on behalf of a nonprofit that makes micro-loans to women who are farmers and entrepreneurs.

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Two of the Nepalese ladies who received micro-loans

The Gorkha district is now at the epicenter of the earthquake that has killed nearly 4,500 people and injured more than 8,000, according to United Nations’ April 28 estimates. In Gorkha, more than 15,000 people also are stranded in remote villages where nearly all homes have been lost, food stocks destroyed, and outside access limited to helicopter, said Gorkha Foundation director Bijaya Devkota.

Devkota established the foundation in 2007 with a primary mission to build schools and hospitals and to extend micro-loans to Gorkha residents. All donor money to the foundation goes to programs with grants used to pay overhead. In light of the disaster, he reached out to the foundation’s network of givers. Forbrich and others stepped forward to help. Devkota was born in Gorkha and lived there until he was 17-years-old. The foundation is located in Chantilly, Va., outside Washington, D.C.

The foundation, which is also working with Doctors Without Borders and Mercy Corps out of Portland, Ore., is close to raising $20,000 to pay for 10,000 tents. Devkota is researching the cost to bring up to 50,000 tents from New Delhi. He believes no tents remain in Nepal for distribution. “The key here is immediate need. You can’t wait a week,” he said.

An online fundraiser Forbrich started Monday through GoFundMe.com/HelpNepalSJLC, had raised $1,496 by midday Wednesday with a goal of $2,000 by Sunday. “You are doing great work!” Pamela Garfield wrote on the fundraising page. Garfield gave $50 to the effort.

“When Japan was hit by tsunami and big earthquake in 2011, many people donated and helped us. Thanks for all warm hearts. Now it’s my turn to help!” wrote Cheena Murphy-Shigematsu, who also donated $50.

Forbrich’s father, Falko Forbrich, has sent $1,000 to help pay the cost of the helicopter needed to deliver supplies. Falko Forbrich is an immigrant from the former East Germany who has suffered from Parkinson’s disease for nearly two decades. He owns the building that houses the San Jose language school.

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Nepali children before the earthquake in the region of Gorkha.

In addition, Alicia Forbrich has pledged $5 from every class registration that the Learning Center receives for its May-June program, which begins Monday. She projects another $1,000 will be raised from this source.

Forbrich founded her school four years ago and now teaches 18 languages including Arabic, Tagalog, Vietnamese, sign language, computer languages and English as a second language. She has visited dozens of countries worldwide. “This is a devastating and depressing event, but I am so happy to see that so many people are willing to help,” Forbrich said.

The Indian government thus far has provided the greatest relief aid to Nepal with aircraft, food, water, blankets, a mobile hospital, and engineering and medical expertise, the UN said.

Asked if the villagers knew that people in Silicon Valley cared about their plight, Devkota said yes, “The villagers know.”

“You have to realize the folks in this area and the whole of Nepal are very innocent. It is a very nice place in that way. They would share what they have, but this time the neighbors have no house,” he said.

(Photos courtesy Alicia Forbrich)

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