North Texas Daily

Tennis coach helps aid earthquake victims in Nepal

Tennis coach helps aid earthquake victims in Nepal

May 06
15:29 2015

Alex Lessard / Staff Writer

As the clock struck noon on Tuesday, head tennis coach Sujay Lama lied down in the middle of the Waranch Tennis Complex floor after finishing a quick workout, not only to stay in shape, but to relax his mind during dire times in his homeland.

Lama was born and raised in Nepal and is one of thousands impacted by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25 that hit Kathmandu, the country’s capital, and surrounding areas. Although Lama’s family is safe, over eight million people have been affected by the disaster, including over 7,500 deaths, according to the United Nations.

“The parallel I can tell you is how I felt the week after 9-11,” Lama said. “There are so many emotions you go through when you see all those pictures and all the news reports and all the personal testimonies to what occurred to the point that you can’t even process it. You become numb.”

Although the Mean Green’s season has ended, players, friends and colleagues immediately thought of Lama and brainstormed ideas on how they could help.

“The first thing I was thinking about was coach Lama and his family,” senior Franziska Sprinkmeyer said. “I texted him and asked if he knew about his family back home and if they were okay.”

Lama is a co-director of “Project Nepal,” a foundation to fund education for Nepalese orphaned and indigent children. All of the schools it has built in Western Nepal suffered nothing more than minor damages. Right now, the foundation’s focus has shifted to helping those affected find a place to live and get back to some sort of normalcy.

Associate head coach Jeff Hammond said Lama’s demeanor was noticeably different in the days after the disaster.

“The first week, it just seemed so surreal,” Hammond said. “You could tell [Lama] was pretty numb to what had happened. It’s hard to wrap your mind around it at first.”

Every two or three years, Lama visits family and schools funded by Project Nepal. With a trip scheduled this winter, Lama deliberated on whether or not to fly to Nepal immediately to help. However, Lama said his potential effectiveness for the cause is much higher if he remains in the United States.

“Me being here [in the U.S.], I have a voice. I have friends. I have community, and I have people that know me and are willing to help,” Lama said. “For me, my most effective way to help right now is to continue doing what I’m doing, which is to raise awareness, need, and hopefully giving people lessons and donating to the cause.”

Each fall since 2012, Lama has hosted a charity tennis tournament at the Waranch Tennis Complex, raising a total of nearly $8,000 for Project Nepal. Last Saturday, Lama played an exhibition match with current and former North Texas players to raise additional money.

“[Lama’s] never strayed from his roots,” Hammond said. “He knows where he’s from. The pride he has in the country and where he is from has always been important to his life.”

Lama is also the faculty advisor for the UNT Nepalese Student Association, which has raised nearly $4,000 of donations at booths on campus in the past week and over $7,000 from almost 300 contributors on its GoFundMe account in just ten days.

“The best way to help is for me to continue to send money and do fundraising,” Lama said. “Studies have shown that sending little supplies here and there is not really going to help the cause right now.”

To help the North Texas community get involved, Project Nepal is sending all donations made through its website to Action Works of Nepal to help acquire basic necessities needed for survival for Nepalese citizens. Lama said throughout the process, he has reminded himself that something good can come out of every tragedy.

“I think it should be relevant for everybody,” Lama said. “We all are human beings and we all are one. It’s humanity that’s at stake. When you see numbers like 7,500 or more [deaths] and counting, those are shocking numbers. It’s hard to even imagine.”

To donate, visit supportprojectnepal.com or NSA’s GoFundMe account.

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