Project SENA Extends Scholarship Program to Help Young Man from Nepal
Posted: Aug 19, 2015 1:35 PM MST
Updated: Aug 19, 2015 8:20 PM MST
By Jared DillinghamCONNECT
PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) -
An Arizona-based charity is hoping to fulfill the dreams of a Nepalese family, devastated by an earthquake in April.
Sonam Sherpa, a 19-year-old from Nepal, was attending college in the United States, when he learned of the earthquake, which killed 8,000 people and damaged or destroyed nearly a million homes.
"It was like hell over there," he said in a Skype interview.
Sonam rushed home to Nepal to see his father, who was pinned beneath a beam in a collapsed building for 13 hours before he was rescued.
Sadly, his father died before Sonam made it home.
He quit school, and decided to stay in Nepal with his mother.
"He had no intention of coming back at that point. He immediately took his father's role of being the breadwinner for his mom and his sister," said Perry Athanason, a Valley resident who met Sonam in Nepal.
Athanason was there with Dr. Pravin Dugel, who works with Retinal Consultants of Arizona, on a relief mission.
The team took special interest in Sonam's case, finding it both touching and troubling.
"They had worked all their life and saved all their money to help him achieve this goal. It was a family dream to have Sonam get a degree from the U.S.," Athanason said.
Dr. Dugel's teenage daughters run a charity called Project SENA, which stands for "Scholarships and Education for Native Americans."
The Dugels have shifted their attention to helping Sonam.
"We definitely feel the need to help because we feel emotionally attached to the people there," said 14-year-old Brenna Dugel.
The team was able to convince Sonam to continue following his family's dream for him in the U.S..
"And my mom also started telling me to do something my dad would be proud of and dreamed of," Sonam said.
He just returned to the U.S., and will start classes at Laguardia Community Colleges in a few days.
Retinal Consultants of Arizona made a donation to cover much of Sonam's courses this semester.
"My mom is proud that I made this decision, and I know my father is proud, too," Sonam said.
He will major in civil engineering, and after earning his degree, will return to Nepal.
Sonam plans to use the skills he develops to help rebuild his home country.
Project SENA is taking donations at their website: www.projectsena.org , and also on a GoFundMe page: http://www.gofundme.com/sonam
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