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A backpacking trip for two friends through Nepal to Everest Base Camp turned into a life calling.

The original idea was to create a nonprofit that would help the people of Nepal fight poverty, but when a devastating earthquake hit Nepal in 2015, that idea turned into a cause to help rebuild.

“As a child, I was always interested in Nepal and Tibet,” said Anthony Mancini, co-founder of Elevate Nepal, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to building homes and schools and bringing sanitation and running water to remote villages in Nepal. “I’m already blown away by what we’ve accomplished so far. Right now, I’m living a dream … If it all falls apart tomorrow, at least we tried.”

Along with Mancini’s partner in the venture, Dan Maurer, Elevate Nepal has raised funds that supported the completion of projects to bring working toilets to a primary school in Patelshor and build temporary shelters in the village of Bahunipati. The current project, nearing completion, is the construction of six homes for families in the village of Kholegaon, who have been living in temporary shelters since the earthquake.

The next project for which Elevate Nepal is raising funds is more ambitious, Mancini said. They plan to rebuild a school for 700 children in the village of Sarsyu. After the earthquake in 2015, the school was heavily damaged, and children currently learn in overcrowded classrooms with poor sanitation. In some cases, children have to attend classes in other villages. The goal is to raise $100,000 to make the school a reality.

THE PLAN

The focus is on “local, local, local,” Mancini said.

The materials for the building projects are local, and the labor is local. Elevate Nepal hired a locally based coordinator for the projects who works with communities to figure out level of need and empower village residents to do their own work.

“It takes a little longer that way, but it employs people locally,” Mancini said, adding that on the housing project, 30 people have been hired for various stages (foundation, structure, sanitation, etc.), and they are paid fair wages for Nepal standards. The school project will require the hiring of even more people.

For the school project, the goals are to construct a building capable of withstanding the effects of earthquakes with mostly local material that will hold 12 fully furnished classrooms, with toilets, clean drinking water and solar electricity.

FUNDRAISING

To raise funds, Mancini and Maurer pound the pavement for donations,  showing up at big events around Flagstaff and beyond to sell merchandise from Nepal. Even the merchandise they sell has a purpose beyond commerce. For instance, hemp bags that Elevate Nepal sells come from a business in Nepal that teaches women a new skill. The coffee comes from farms where the villagers are being taught skills to have thriving enterprises.

“Everything we do, we’re trying to include as many people as possible,” Mancini said.

A recent Big Lebowski bowling fundraiser in February netted $11,000 toward the $100,000 goal. Mancini said their efforts this year have already surpassed last year’s fundraising goals, and Elevate Nepal has garnered about $25,000 so far for the school project. They also joined forces with Hofstra University in Long Island on a crowdfunding effort to raise the necessary funds, and the Engineers without Borders chapter at the University of Maryland has agreed to plan and fund the solar system for the primary school.

A CALLING EMERGES

The two took a 35-day backpacking trip to Nepal and, while they were there, they ended up working on two farms for two months, which inspired them to think beyond typical careers in the business world. Because both men have business degrees, their “bar talk” eventually turned into some viable business ideas before the earthquake happened and the mission turned to one of relief. The duo began raising funds for the relief effort. After the success of their first year, they quit their day jobs and threw themselves into the work of Elevate Nepal.

Both men work at it seven days a week at all hours of the day and night while working part-time jobs to make ends meet and live.

“We’re not doing it to get rich,” Mancini said. “We’re looking to make it our life’s work.”

For more information about Elevate Nepal, to donate, or to get involved, visit www.elevatenepalinc.org.

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