Platts: Our brothers and sisters in Nepal
Aspen is known as a bubble. They, and even we, say that this town is a fantasy world, a disconnect from reality. We live in a utopia, far from worry and doubt. Even further from crisis and trauma.
This is the theory, or perhaps the conclusion, about Aspen. But it is one I always argue adamantly against. Yes, we live in paradise, but there are plenty of people here that keep themselves connected to the rest of the world.
That’s why, when a M7.8 earthquake struck 7,744 miles away from our “bubble” in Nepal on Saturday, April 25, two Aspenites were not only devastated by the news, they saw it as a call to action.
Benjamin Cumbie and Sean Robison, both 26-year-old bartenders at Justice Snow’s, woke that morning to the news and immediately asked what they could do to help. Both of them, and their other coworker Ashley Devon, met to discuss and within several hours Cumbie and Robison had booked their flights to Kathmandu.
“It didn’t take long. It didn’t take any convincing,” Robison said about the travel decision.
Now, roughly 10 days after the earthquake, these longtime friends from Florida are heading to help bring aid to rural villages in the Lalitpur District of Nepal, south of Kathmandu, that have yet to receive much aid. They are going with Solve Nepal, a nonprofit that has worked for positive developmental change in the country for more than 20 years.
Cumbie and Robison’s friend and fellow Aspen local Katie Cassetta connected them with Solve Nepal through her friend Prakash Ojha, one of the organization’s board members. She met him in 2008 when she was over in Nepal volunteering at an orphanage for a month. She was only 18 years old at the time and was shocked by the hardship she saw all around her.
“It was life-changing for me,” Cassetta said. “Being in a structurally poor country was a big change. I had never seen anything or any place in such poor condition before.”
Seven years and one natural disaster later, many of the areas Cassetta spent her time in are worse off than ever before, particularly when it comes to shelter. Residents of these villages are living outside because the aftershocks of the earthquake are still affecting the structural integrity of buildings. Because of this, Ojha is having Cumbie and Robison bring tents and other kinds of material to make shelters. Even if these shelters are temporary, monsoon season is coming and Nepalese people need all the relief they can get.
Cumbie and Robison are no strangers to relief efforts. Both grew up in Florida and helped with efforts to rebuild in areas that got hit badly. They also have helped out in Third World countries like Haiti.
“We are familiar with what needs to be done and we are lucky enough to be able to have these connections where, instead of just being another body, we have a specific cause,” Cumbie said.
They are also no strangers to Nepal. Even though they’ve never actually been on the country’s soil, they have been researching the culture for more than four years and are planning to create a documentary about the music and culture of the country.
“The country is very untouched. It’s such a pure, raw culture that we were drawn to and have been studying for years,” Cumbie said.
They were planning on traveling to the country later in the year to start filming, but once the earthquake hit they postponed the plan so they could go and help.
By the time this article is published, Cumbie and Robison will be halfway to Kathmandu. Their Justice Snow’s crew will be helping to get donated gear and supplies to them. Any monetary donations made on their website will go straight to the victims.
The boys are eager to get there, but very nervous for what they are about to experience.
“There is no way to prepare for what you are mentally about to see,” Robison said. “It’s definitely going to change us.”
Talk about getting out of your comfort zone … and out of the supposed “Aspen Bubble.”
For more information on this fundraising mission, please go to http://www.rally.org and search for “our brothers and sisters in Nepal” or head into Justice Snow’s and talk to Ashley or Patrick about how to get involved with this worthy cause.
Barbara Platts has never traveled to Nepal, but Cumbie and Robison’s dedication to the cause has really sparked her interest. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.