After the earthquake in Napal, Thakur Karkee’s 82-year-old father, stepmother and sister lived in a tent until about a month ago in Kathmandu, the South Asian country’s capital and largest city.
But his wife’s parents, who live in a rural area that was the epicenter of the April earthquake, are still living in a tent.
“My father-in-law told me that most of the houses there, around 99 to 95 percent of the houses, were destroyed, and all the schools were destroyed,” said Karkee, 54, of Cary.
Karkee was among 400 people who participated in the Run4Nepal 5K to raise money for the country that was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25 and a 7.3 aftershock on May 12.
About 8,800 people lost their lives, according to the Nepal Center of North Carolina, a Morrisville nonprofit organization that seeks to preserve the cultural heritage, traditions and customs of Nepal for former residents who now live in the state. Nearly 600,000 homes were destroyed and another 280,000 damaged.
Nepal Center of North Carolina organized Sunday’s 5K run, which raised about $15,000 to build a stable elementary school building in central Nepal.
The run was just the latest in a series of fundraising events that have brought in about $70,000 to help people in Nepal, said Dipendra Lamichhane, 40, of Morrisville, one of the race’s organizers.
Nearly 2,000 Nepalese live in the Triangle, Lamichhane said, mostly in the Cary and Morrisville area.
Some have been here for years, working as professionals for local universities, the state and for companies in Research Triangle Park. Others have come more recently through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which provides a limited number of visas to immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S.
They come for the high-technology jobs, for the weather that is similar to Nepal, and to follow friends and family who are also established here.
“If a relative is already here, then other people from the same district follow them,” Lamichhane said.
Triangle Nepalese activities include a 90-minute Saturday language school at the Cary Arts Center. The community doesn’t have its own temple, but many worship at area temples, including the Hindu Society of North Carolina in Morrisville.
The community also has a soccer and volleyball group. They’ve organized blood drives and adopted and cleaned up a section of Louis Stephens Road in Morrisville, Karkee said.
Phoebe Pradhan, 20, moved from Nepal to the U.S. with her family when she was 5. Pradhan, who graduated from Cary High School and is now a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, said she grew up straddling two different cultures. While her parents celebrate Christmas and Easter, they weren’t open to her dating or attending dances.
The longer her parents are in the U.S., however, the more they are open to bending to American ways, Pradhan said, adding she was able to attend her high school prom and that her younger brother has been able to do more than she was allowed to do.
The Triangle Nepalese community “is very tight-knit,” said Manira Rayamajhi, 33, of Durham, who moved to the U.S. from Nepal in 2002 to attend Wesleyan College in Georgia.
“We get together quite often,” she said. “There is always something going on over the weekends.”
Sometimes it’s a small celebration over at someone’s house or a larger festival at a temple, she said.
Rayamajhi’s family still lives in Nepal, but she also had family and friends in the area when she moved to the Triangle four years ago to work as a scientist as the UNC-Chapel Hill.
After arriving in the area, she connected with more Nepalese people at work and at Duke University.
Rayamajhi said her grandmother’s house was damaged, and her sister-in-law’s father died in the quake. She said she volunteered for Run4Nepal to raise awareness that help is still needed for her native country.
“This is my way of saying, ‘Here is what I can do,’ ” she said.
To donate to the local effort to help Nepal’s recovery after the earthquake, go to http://www.ncnepal.org/.