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Western Pennsylvania mobilizes to aid Nepal in earthquake recovery

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Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Members of the Bhutanese and Nepalese community in Pittsburgh light candles around a chalk memorial Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Wallace Park in Whitehall to remember their homeland after the recent earthquake in Nepal.
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Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Members of the Bhutanese and Nepalese community in Pittsburgh light candles around a chalk memorial Sunday, May 3, 2015, to remember their homeland after the recent earthquake in Nepal.
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Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Members of the Bhutanese and Nepalese community in Pittsburgh light candles around a chalk memorial on Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Wallace Park in Whitehall to remember their homeland after the recent earthquake in Nepal at Wallace Park in Whitehall.
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Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Puspa Nepal, 18, paints a Nepali flag on the face of Dipseka Timsina, 12, both of Baldwin, before a candlelight vigil in Wallace Park in Whitehall on Sunday, May 3, 2015, to remember their homeland after the recent earthquake in Nepal.
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Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Bijay Nepal (from left), 20, Manoj Dhakal, 29, and Roshna Dhakal, 16, all of Whitehall, paint a chalk representation of the Nepali flag on the ground before a candlelight vigil in Wallace Park in Whitehall on Sunday, May 3, 2015, to remember their homeland after the recent earthquake in Nepal.

Entering its second week of recovery from a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 6,200 people and left millions homeless, Nepal still struggles for basic needs, said a local doctor who’s a Nepali native.

Dipesh Bista was at Brother’s Brother Foundation’s North Side facility Friday picking out medical supplies to send to Nepal, where his brother, Bipin Bista of Denver, is providing medical care.

In a phone conversation Thursday night, “He said, ‘We need supplies. We need food. We need tents,’ ” Dipesh Bista said, adding that the scale of the catastrophe, rugged terrain and limited infrastructure have compounded problems.

Several Western Pennsylvania organizations are arranging help. Locally, the Nepali and Bhutanese communities are spreading the word and soliciting donations and supplies.

The Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh has raised about $7,000 in cash and online donations, said Rup Pokharel. The group has been holding vigils to raise awareness about the disaster, he said.

About 100 Bhutanese and Nepali natives living in the South Hills gathered Sunday evening at the Whitehall Place housing complex to light candles, listen to Nepali music and share stories and prayers in Nepali.

Organized by the Children of Shangri-Lost, they held signs reminding each other to stay “Nepal Strong” and “Help the Quake Victims.”

“It’s heartbreaking to have such a loss in the country that gave us refuge,” said Diwas Timsina, 20, of Baldwin Borough, who was born in a refugee camp in Nepal and moved to the United States several years ago.

Whitehall has had a large population of refugees since the 1990s, and many reside at Whitehall Place. The most recent wave of resettlement to the area involved a large population of Bhutanese-born people, who lived for more than a decade in Nepali refugee camps.

Pokharel asked those in attendance to consider giving up a meal and donating the money to help Nepal. The cost of one meal here, he said, will feed a family there.

Earlier Sunday, the Hindu Jain Temple in Monroeville held a peace prayer for the earthquake victims.

“We do that for those, of course, who are departed as well as those who have survived,” said Pankaj Mehrotra, temple president. The temple took up a collection that will be sent to the relief effort, he said.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has raised about $8,000 for relief, with the money going to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which is on the ground in Nepal, said Jessica Brown Smith, the federation’s campaign and financial resource development director.

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is taking a special collection during Masses next weekend to fund emergency relief efforts, Bishop David A. Zubik announced Thursday. Catholic Relief Services is working with Caritas Nepal, a Catholic charity in Nepal.

Donations have been slower than usual, probably because news out of Baltimore has diverted the public’s attention, said Kathleen Hower, CEO of Global Links, a Green Tree nonprofit that collects and sends medical equipment and supplies.

“We’re hoping people will focus more on helping Nepal,” she said.

Global Links has sent about $100,000 worth of medical equipment and supplies to five hospitals in Nepal and provided the surgical instruments for an effort by California-based Team Rubicon, an organization of military medical veterans, to provide aid, she said.

“We’re also hoping to work longer term with the Nepali community when they’re interested in rebuilding,” Hower said.

Brother’s Brother Foundation has provided medical support for three teams that headed to Nepal on Sunday, President Luke Hingson said. The teams were put together by groups out of Rockford, Tenn., Cleveland and Denver, he said.

The foundation has sent a fourth shipment, which Bista was arranging on Friday, he said.

In addition to buying and shipping supplies, the foundation is funding purchases of equipment and services in Nepal including electric generators and helicopter rescues, he said.

“When you have a disaster, you try to get the stuff that’s nearby first,” he said.

Landslides have cut off access to many villages that were difficult to reach by land even before the earthquake, he said. The only way to get doctors and supplies in or patients out is by air, he said.

Staff writer Stephanie Hacke contributed to this report. Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or [email protected].

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