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Tennis coach Lama continuing earthquake relief efforts with Project Nepal

Tennis coach Lama continuing earthquake relief efforts with Project Nepal

April 14
00:20 2016

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor


Piles of rocks and rubble coated the streets. A sense of panic and desperation colored the faces of thousands of victims as they searched for lost loved ones.

This was the aftermath of a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25, 2015, leaving the country in dire need of food, water, clothes, shelter and medicine. A less severe earthquake struck less than a month later, and a current dispute with India over Nepal’s newly approved constitution is putting a halt to the recovery process.

Enter Mean Green head tennis coach Sujay Lama, who was born and raised in Nepal.

“It was very difficult, and it’s still a very difficult state for Nepal,” Lama said. “Every day it affects all of us, especially for me personally. There’s always this sadness. How can this change, how can we do something to get better.”

Lama is a co-director of Project Nepal, a non-profit organization created to educate orphaned children in his homeland. Since the earthquake, Project Nepal has raised more than $12,000, with nearly all of the money going directly to Radha Paudel, the founder of Action Works Nepal. Paudel has spent nearly all of it on acquiring the basic necessities for the most affected families in the rural western areas of Nepal.

Before meeting in person, Lama was in communication with Paudel for three years, learning as much as he could about her mission and finding inspiration along the way. After visiting Nepal with her on multiple occasions, most recently in 2013, Lama gained confidence that all of Project Nepal’s donations are being utilized as much as possible.

Paudel and Lama point to Lama's oldest brother Vijay, a film and recording star and pilot with Nepal Airlines. Courtesy | Ed Kellerman

Paudel and Lama point to Lama’s oldest brother Vijay, a film and recording star and pilot with Nepal Airlines. Courtesy | Ed Kellerman

Although being with Mean Green tennis has prevented him from being involved as much as he’d like, Lama said his motivation is still strong.

“You have to always be in tune with how you can make a difference, but you have to live your life,” Lama said. “I have a family to raise and I have a job to do, but that’s not going to deter me from doing what I’m doing.”

This summer, Lama will be sending his 16-year-old daughter Priya to some of the hardest hit portions of Western Nepal to aid in relief efforts. Priya has been in contact with her teachers and classmates at Liberty Christian High School about fundraising for Project Nepal, but this will be the first time she has ever been to Nepal’s remote areas.

“I think this is really going to open my eyes to see an actual third world country and how the people are living compared to here,” Priya said.

Priya will become just one more helping hand at Project Nepal’s core, headed by Lama and fellow co-director Ed Kellerman. Kellerman has raised more than $10,000 for the project in the past decade and nearly $2,000 from a recent GoFundMe campaign and a 5k run in February.

But he said Priya’s work is what’s most important. 

“Every good charity, especially international charities, should have people going there,” Kellerman said. “We trust Radha, but this is an opportunity for Priya to be our eyes and ears.”

Kellerman and Lama both said they hope the opportunity inspires Priya to become even more active with Project Nepal in the future, but Priya already has big ideas.

“I just hope I can continue it like my dad has,” Priya said. “When he’s older, I want to be able to continue it and make it grow just for him.”

As an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management at the University of Florida, Kellerman’s expertise has been vital to the project’s growth. After sitting down with Lama, the duo came up with the idea for an annual tennis tournament at the Waranch Tennis Complex in Denton, which will take place for the fifth time in November. The camp has brought in over 100 participants each year and has become Project Nepal’s signature event.

“At some point during the year, you have to commit to one yearly event,” Kellerman said. “You have to make time for it if you believe in your cause.”

With the Conference USA Championships looming and an upcoming trek on the recruiting trail this summer, finding time to commit to service has been a challenge for Lama. The same is true for Kellerman, who intends to apply for the Fulbright Faculty Service Scholarship to stay in Nepal for six months.

Nevertheless, no matter what is happening in their lives, each of them said giving back will always be at the forefront of their minds.

“I have a job, and I love what I do,” Lama said. “This is my passion, but Project Nepal is my mission.”

Featured Image: From left to right: Dr. Edmund Kellerman, Radha Paudel and Sujay Lama at Paudel’s Peace Center in Jumla, Nepal. Courtesy | Ed Kellerman

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