I was just asked last night about who the most impactful person we've met on this honeymoon has been, and it has, hands down, been Kumar Gautam (the man on the far right in the photo).
Kumar is a trekking guide for Experience the Himalayas and was our guide for the 14-day Annapurna Circuit trek in August. He is a quiet, unassuming, happy man who often has little to say, but whose smile says everything.
Kumar has been a trekking guide for 20 years, and has led more than 250 treks in his life to Everest and other mountains in the Himalayas, earning a modest salary. To support his family (wife and baby), he also has a small family farm, where he harvests corn, rice and wheat for his family.
Last Spring, Kumar lost his home in the earthquakes. The government simply gave him a piece of sheet metal to help him, which he bent in half and used to build a temporary tent - one in which he and his family lived in for a full year. When it rained, everything they owned was covered in mud. Snakes and other animals would suprise them at all hours of the night.
Slowly, Kumar raised the money to build a one-floor home on his property again (appx. $3,000), and now his wife, baby and animals all live in that one-room, one-floor home.
Kumar made such an impact on us because he would have never told us about this if his boss hadn't brought it up. And even with that, he never complained. He explained that this is simply his karma, and that he welcomes it. He had pure joy in every step he took along our trek, taking photos with us like a fellow tourist, and was smiling or giggling the entire time. I've never seen someone so genuinely happy and grateful for such a modest lot in life.
On the last day of our climb, when we had nearly reached 5,400 meters, I had a panic attack and was convinced that I couldn't finish the trek. But Kumar was there, by my side, literally every step of the way. He offered crackers and lemon water, and kept a slow, calm smile, telling me that I was very strong and brave. And we summited together that day.
When we returned from the trek, we went on to yoga school, and Kumar returned home to his family to pick up a $500 grant from his government for his home. But days later, we saw a news story about a bus of 90 people from Kumar's town going off a cliff, killing nearly everyone. Thankfully, Kumar wasn't on that bus, but nearly all of his neighbors were.
Just as we were leaving Nepal, Kumar came to meet us for dinner and offer us a scarf for safe travels, and when we asked him if he was okay after the bus crash, he smiled and explained that this was just their karma. "These things happen."
I have never met a more deserving man for my support, but as I sat with my best friend last night, in tears, telling him this story, he offered to match my support. And now, he's challenged me to do something bigger - help Kumar finish building his house.
The second floor will cost $3-5,000, and any money raised above that will go to support his community as they rebuild after so many lives were lost.
Andrew and I told Kumar that we would send him $500 when we return from our honeymoon this November (when we have jobs again, and actually have enough money to send money), and I'd love to send a bigger check if possible.
Brad Telepo has generously offered to match our donation, and between the two of us, we could probably get a big enough check together to complete this goal, but I'm opening this up to you, our friends and supporters, because I have a feeling that you'll want to help too.
Andrew and I are headed back to Nepal in the fall, 2018, to hike Everest Base Camp (you are welcome to join), and Kumar has already graciously offered to host us in his house. This man has nearly nothing, and yet offers what he has freely.
Kumar has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of us to overcome obstacles and reach new heights. May we all learn a lesson from him. And may we give something back for all he has given to us.