Thursday May 31, 2018
Nurbu Sherpa invites the community to enjoy the cuisine of Nepal in Burlington Sunday, June 10. More than a chance to savor Himalayan-style chicken curry and Nepalese dumplings known as momos, his invitation is an opportunity to empower women and aid underprivileged families in Dhading, a rural village across the globe in Nepal. With help from family and friends, Sherpa is cohosting a fundraising Nepalese dinner at the Old North End Community Center, 20 Allen Street from 5 to 8p.m., to raise funds for the Women Empowerment Project. Cohosted with North End Studios, the event features food, dance, and inspiration.
This is not the first time Sherpa has reached out to help others in Nepal. In 2015, he organized fundraising efforts for those in need after the Nepal earthquake, which killed nearly 9,000 people and injured many thousands of others. It was then that Sherpa first partnered with North End Studios. “They helped us organize the event because we were still pretty new in the town. We supplied all the foods and all the benefits went directly to people that had lost families and homes or were injured.”
Sherpa’s 2016 efforts were to raise funds for the Women Empowerment Project, which was a collaboration between a Nepalese based nonprofit Peace4People, and Empower1, a nonprofit co-founded by Sherpa and two of his friends in New York City. Noting that Empower1 is “dedicated to the empowerment of underprivileged children, individuals, and families in Nepal,” Sherpa adds, “Empower1 believes that everyone should be given the opportunity to explore and reach their potential; and be all that they can be.”
Sherpa’s 2016 fundraising mission was the pilot project for Empower1. Its goal was to increase women’s income in Dhading by donating goats and providing the necessary skills and resources to produce and sell goat products. “I’m very happy to inform that the project went very well,” said Sherpa. “We distributed 20 goats to 10 women and were able to train and support the participants in goat rearing. Our participants were able to able to earn income and benefit tremendously from the project by selling goat milk, cheese, etc.” Commenting on the continuing benefits of the program, he explains, “The goats bred and have kids, which were passed on to other women in the village, so they can also improve their financial situation.”
The real-life results in Nepal from the goat project are noteworthy. According to the organization, the participating women have increased their earnings significantly, for some that means an annual income of $350 compared to their previous annual income of $50.
The revenue from this year’s fundraising dinner will introduce soap production to the rural village. Sherpa says, “The majority of people, about 65 to 70 percent, in Nepal do not own a washing machine due to financial reasons. People wash their clothes by hand using soaps. So, this time we are planning to build a small soap factory in Dhading and will train participants to build soap and sell them for income generation, which helps sustain women and their families.”
This entrepreneurial spirit is part of who Sherpa is here in Vermont. A South Burlington resident, he began his own business, Sherpa Foods, in 2014 with the mission of bringing authentic Nepalese delicacies “from a Himalayan state to the United States.”
When asked what inspired the entrepreneur to start a food business, Sherpa says, “My family’s home cooking.” And it was family that also brought him to the Green Mountain State. He recalls, “My parents had been living in Vermont for a while. Even before our son was born, my mother wanted to have her grandson close to her. So, I was trying to get them to move down to New York City and they were trying to move us here. And, they won.” Noting how much he liked the area when he came to visit, Sherpa adds, “Although winter was a little longer, the people were nicer, the environment - peace and quiet. I always admired that. In the end, we decided Vermont would be better place to raise our son.”
A graduate of the University of Texas and a former group sales manager, buyer, and marketing manager for Macy’s, Sherpa says once in Vermont he visited several local grocery stores. “That’s when I realized the kind of support and admiration Vermonters had for local food and producers. That’s when I thought maybe I could combine my business background from Macy’s and my family’s delicious home cooking and start a food supply start-up. And that’s how Sherpa Foods was born.”
With a passion for helping others, both locally with COTS and abroad with Peace4People, Sherpa and his nonprofit organization have focused their efforts on the village of Dhading, which he describes as having “breathtaking scenery of mountains and rivers.” He also notes, “But the people there hardly have any income and average life expectancy is only 49.5 years. Some parts of the region are not accessible by car nor might they have clean drinking water, electricity or toilets.” With an understanding that more areas could use assistance, Sherpa adds, “If this [project] works, then our plan is to expand and help as many women as possible.”
All proceeds from the June 10 dinner will benefit the Empower1 and Peace4People work. Sherpa says, “The chefs are friends and family of Sherpa Foods, with additional help from local Nepalese volunteers.”
At the event, there will be a presentation at 5:30 p.m. about the nonprofits’ collaborative projects. Dinner follows with an array of traditional Nepalese foods that will accommodate vegetarian and gluten-free diets. There will be a dance performance by the Vermont Nepalese Cultural Heritage Dance Group and a Skype call to Nepal, “so attendees can see for themselves who the proceeds are benefiting.”
Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance at northendstudios.org. For those interested in supporting the Empower1 goal, visit www.gofundme.com/Empower1WEP.
SOURCE: Carole Vasta Folley, The Other Paper