In New York’s Queens neighborhood, an army of volunteers helps Buddhist monks from the United Sherpa Association, a nonprofit cultural organization created to promote and preserve Sherpa culture in the United States. The association has settled in a Buddhist temple and has been offering food to all those who need it since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last spring.
Some of the temple pantry volunteers are beneficiaries themselves, including Tshering Chhoki Sherpa, a 26-year-old graduate student from Baruch College who started working there in July. “It’s nice to be a part of it and to get some help,” she said. “When I come here, I feel like I’m back home, because everyone speaks Nepali. (ABC News)
Along with the food program, last year, members of the United Sherpa Association called contacts around the world to collect masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, which were often out of stock in stores across the region. The association also awarded scholarships worth US $ 500 to over 30 students and used its large volunteer base to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and food to the homes of community members. in need.
The pantry in particular has been a lasting lifeline for many members of the Nepalese community in New York City. “It’s really a big help because you get everything fresh and organic,” said Jyoti Rajbanshi, a Nepalese nursing student at Long Island University who lost her job and was relying on her credit cards. to buy food. “And at least you don’t have to spend the money on groceries. (ABC News)
Inside the temple, which was once a Christian church, monks dressed in traditional brown robes still sing and light incense and candles on an altar in front of a golden statue of the Buddha. Outside, people wearing face masks line up for several blocks waiting for the opportunity to pick up food and other items donated to the temple.
No one is turned away from the temple, located in a very diverse and immigrant-rich neighborhood of New York City. As people of color – and immigrants in particular – have been particularly hard hit in the United States during the pandemic, the temple program has been especially needed by many.
Nepalese students are among those who find its services essential, many of whom are stranded in the United States due to travel restrictions and away from family and friends throughout the pandemic. In addition to being cut off from their home countries, many were forced out of dormitories and failed to qualify for certain assistance programs such as the US federal stimulus checks.
“They don’t have unemployment insurance. They don’t have a home here. They are far from home, “said Urgen Sherpa, the association’s president, calling the students aid to the” unknown victims “of the coronavirus. (ABC News)
Many of those who use the pantry and worship in the temple are members of the Sherpa ethnic group of Nepal. The Sherpas are famous for their members who serve as guides for those who climb Mount Everest and other peaks in the Himalayan region.
Nepal, with a population of 30 million, has recorded some 272,945 coronavirus cases and 2,055 deaths. The country has been closed to foreigners for much of 2020 due to the pandemic, leaving many members of the tourist-dense economy without jobs or the means to support their families. With recent confirmed cases reaching low levels this month, many have called for a swift reopening of the economy, even as health officials urge caution. “It’s like nothing has happened. The nightclubs are crowded. Schools and colleges are reopening. The sports halls are full. There doesn’t appear to be any COVID, ”says Sameer Mani Dixit, a public health specialist. “It defies logic.” (The Guardian)
Meanwhile, the United States remains the hardest-hit country in the world with more than 28 million confirmed cases and 500,000 total deaths recorded. However, new cases have declined in recent weeks and vaccines are now given to more than a million people per day.
While hope and uncertainty remain high, the pantry offers both food and purpose. Pantry volunteer Dechhen Karmo Sherpa, a 16-year-old US-born teenager to Nepalese parents, says her volunteer work is “a way to give back in a time when you feel so helpless.” (ABC News)
Buddhist temple pantry a lifeline for Nepalese students (ABC News)
A Buddhist temple offers a lifeline to Nepalese students in New York (Irish Examiner)
New York-based Buddhist temple pantry turns into a lifeline for people (Hindustan times)
‘It’s like there is no Covid’: Nepal defies pandemic amid a shattered economy (The Guardian)
United Sherpa Association