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Local Nepalese raise money for earthquake victims

While victims are still being rescued from the rubble of the devastating earthquake in Nepal, Chicago’s Nepali American Center is raising money through a series of small events to support the rebuilding process.

The latest, a buffet lunch at Evanston Indian and Nepalese restaurant Mt. Everest on Sunday drew Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and other local leaders who pledged to monitor the federal government’s aid to ensure it is effective and ongoing.

Nepali American Center President Bishnu Phuyal, who said he has brothers and sisters living in the Kathmandu area, lost a relative in the earthquake April 25 that has claimed more than 7,000 lives so far.

“People are suffering,” Phuyal said. “The situation in the remote areas in many locations is still unknown.”

Ramakant Kharel, owner of Mt. Everest and vice president of the Nepali American Center, committed all the proceeds of Sunday’s lunch service to the fund and said he would match any direct donations up to $5,000.

Kharel hosted a similar lunch Thursday, and the group hosted a candlelight vigil and a charity drive at a Bloomingdale Hindu temple.

The events have raised an estimated $25,000 toward a goal of $75,000 in the month of May, Kharel said.

The American chapter of the Non-Resident Nepali Association, an international group of Nepali expatriates, is collecting the funds. The group has a team of 32 people in Nepal who will communicate with the local government to see where the money is most needed, Phuyal said.

Schakowsky and Durbin met with Phuyal to discuss the situation in Nepal and what the victims need most.

“I think the absolute most important thing is to contribute funds. It’s really the money that can make the difference,” Schakowsky said.

Durbin said the focus should be on a “sustained recovery.”

Leaders from other Chicago-area Asian-American organizations are assisting with the fundraising process and will host a larger event in late June.

Sadruddin Noorani, a member of the board for the Asian American Coalition of Chicago, said Nepal will need support for years to come.

“Don’t only do now and forget it, but think about the future, moving forward,” he said.