Lama Gelbu, left, Pasang Sherpa, center, and Yanddu Lama, right, prepare bags of fruit used as ceremonial offerings.(AP)
Lama Gelbu, left, Pasang Sherpa, center, and Yanddu Lama, right, prepare bags of fruit used as ceremonial offerings.(AP)

New York-based Buddhist temple’s food pantry turns into a lifeline for people

The United Sherpa Association launched the food program from scratch last April.
AP
PUBLISHED ON FEB 14, 2021 09:40 PM IST

Inside the temple in the New York City borough of Queens, monks clad in maroon robes chanted and lit incense and candles at an altar before a golden statue of Buddha.

Earlier, on the sidewalk outside, people with face masks, shopping baskets and reusable bags stood in a socially distanced line stretching two city blocks, waiting to cart off badly needed rice, fruit and vegetables to get them through hard times due to the pandemic.

A line of people stretches for two blocks outside the United Sherpa Associations weekly food pantry.(AP)
A line of people stretches for two blocks outside the United Sherpa Associations weekly food pantry.(AP)

“It’s really a big help because you get all fresh, organic," said Jyoti Rajbanshi, a Nepalese nursing student at Long Island University who has lost work and resorted to running up her credit cards and relying on the weekly pantry. “And then at least you don’t have to spend some money on buying the groceries.”

The United Sherpa Association launched the food program from scratch last April as the coronavirus was ravaging the borough and other parts of the city. The Buddhist temple and community center serves all comers, including immigrants living in the country without legal permission and the swollen ranks of the unemployed, but it has become a particularly important lifeline for Nepalese college students living thousands of miles from their families.

Phurba Sherpa, left, and other volunteers move boxes of food at the United Sherpa Associations weekly food pantry.(AP)
Phurba Sherpa, left, and other volunteers move boxes of food at the United Sherpa Associations weekly food pantry.(AP)

Some were forced by lockdowns to leave dorms where previously they got most of their meals. They don't qualify for federal stimulus checks. Their student visas generally don't allow them to work full-time or off-campus to support themselves. And there's often little help from home, with families in their heavily tourism-dependent country struggling mightily during the pandemic.

“They don't have unemployment insurance. They don't have homes here. They are far away from home,” said Urgen Sherpa, the association's president, who calls the students it helps “unknown victims” of the coronavirus.

They're part of the estimated 2 million residents of New York City facing food insecurity, a number said to have nearly doubled amid the biggest surge in unemployment since the Great Depression.

Early on in the pandemic, residents of the immigrant-rich Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona neighborhoods of Queens were hit hard and tested positive for the virus in greater numbers than in other parts of the city. The United Sherpa Association closed its temple and canceled its sports programs, cultural activities and Sherpa and Nepali language classes.

It also sprang into action to help those who were struggling, with members calling contacts across the world to import masks, gloves and hand sanitizer that were often out of stock at local stores. The association gave $500 stipends to more than 30 students and mobilized an army of volunteers to make home deliveries of personal protective equipment and boxes of food.

Antonio Sanchez, second from left, holds his 2-year-old daughter, Kyle, as they wait in line for food at the United Sherpa Associations weekly food pantry.(AP)
Antonio Sanchez, second from left, holds his 2-year-old daughter, Kyle, as they wait in line for food at the United Sherpa Associations weekly food pantry.(AP)

When the pantry launched, word spread through social media and students volunteered to pick up food and distribute it every Friday outside the temple, housed in a former Christian church.

Some of the volunteers are beneficiaries themselves, like Tshering Chhoki Sherpa, a 26-year-old graduate student at Baruch College who started working there in July.

“It feels good being a part of it,” she said, “and also getting help.”

A cat reaches for a piece of string hanging from a table stacked with boxes of food at the United Sherpa Associations weekly food pantry.(AP)
A cat reaches for a piece of string hanging from a table stacked with boxes of food at the United Sherpa Associations weekly food pantry.(AP)

Beyond mere sustenance, the pantry also comforts the spirit, she said: “When I come here I feel like I’m back home, because everyone talks in Nepali.”

Like many who worship at the temple, she belongs to the Sherpa, an ethnic group from the Himalayan region whose members are known for working as guides and support staff for adventurers who come to climb Mount Everest and other peaks among the highest in the world.

Nepal, a country of 30 million people, was closed to foreigners much of the last year because of the pandemic, devastating the tourism industry and resulting in shuttered businesses and lost jobs. Tshering Chhoki Sherpa's family, for their part, temporarily closed the hotel they ran on one of the trekking paths to Everest, and she got by in New York on savings and the pantry.

Nepal was also hit hard by the virus, and shortages of available hospital beds led the government to ask patients with lesser symptoms to isolate at home. So for students struggling in New York, going home wasn't seen as a viable solution.

Rajbanshi said her parents both contracted COVID-19. So did her uncle, who died. She hasn't seen her family in Nepal in three years, and she worries about them.

It's a common sentiment.

“In Nepal, every day I hear harder news," said Mina Shaestha, 23, who deferred her entrance to LaGuardia Community College because of the pandemic. "People are dying of hunger. They are staying in the same room because of quarantine.”

Her partner works part-time at a grocery store, and with little money coming in, the potatoes, onions, pasta, pumpkins and milk they get from the pantry are crucial to feed them and their 2-year-old son.

“We save the money from the food and we can pay the extra things, like rent,” Shaesta said.

Pantry volunteer Deshen Karmo Sherpa, a 16-year-old who was born in the United States to Nepalese parents, said she was moved to support it because she saw a community in need.

It was "a way to actually give back," she said, "in a time where you feel so helpless.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Topics
Close
The image shows all the women recipients pf the Nobel prize.(Instagram/@nobelprize_org)
The image shows all the women recipients pf the Nobel prize.(Instagram/@nobelprize_org)

Nobel Prize organisation shares clip of women who have changed the world

By Srimoyee Chowdhury
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 03:08 PM IST
The organisation shared the inspiring video to celebrate International Women's Day.
Close
Bhagyashree has been working all through COVID-19 pandemic.(ANI)
Bhagyashree has been working all through COVID-19 pandemic.(ANI)

Meet this social worker from Indore who rehabilitates elderly people in need

ANI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 01:51 PM IST
Bhagyashree wants to give a message to society to assist her in helping the destitute.
Close
The image shows a cat named Chase.(Instagram/@dontstopmeowing)
The image shows a cat named Chase.(Instagram/@dontstopmeowing)

Cat’s spa day with human gets interrupted, it reacts in a hilarious way. Watch

By Trisha Sengupta
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 01:15 PM IST
“He legit wanted to continue his spa day,” wrote an Instagram user while commenting on the video.
Close
The image shows the dishes cooked by American chef Rick Bayless.(Twitter/@Rick_Bayless)
The image shows the dishes cooked by American chef Rick Bayless.(Twitter/@Rick_Bayless)

American chef cooks Indian dishes for son-in-law’s birthday, wows people

By Trisha Sengupta
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:09 PM IST
The tweet by the American chef is complete with the images of the dishes he cooked.
Close
International Women’s Day 2021: The image shows a still taken from the video shared by Smriti Irani.(Instagram/@smritiiraniofficial)
International Women’s Day 2021: The image shows a still taken from the video shared by Smriti Irani.(Instagram/@smritiiraniofficial)

International Women’s Day 2021: Smriti Irani thanks women with this special post

By Trisha Sengupta
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 11:51 AM IST
International Women’s Day 2021: Smriti Irani's post prompted people to share appreciative comments.
Close
The image shows a cat named Cleo sitting on a dog named Samson's back.(Instagram/@instagram)
The image shows a cat named Cleo sitting on a dog named Samson's back.(Instagram/@instagram)

Cat enjoys hike sitting on best buddy dog’s back. Watch absolutely adorable clip

By Trisha Sengupta
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 10:37 AM IST
"Meet hikers and best buds Samson the golden retriever and Cleo the Scottish fold," reads a part of the caption shared alongside the post.
Close
The post has prompted people to share all sorts of comments.(Instagram/@nasa)
The post has prompted people to share all sorts of comments.(Instagram/@nasa)

Nasa posts pic of majestic galaxy discovered in 1876, shares interesting facts

By Trisha Sengupta
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 08:57 AM IST
Nasa shared a picture of a galaxy called NGC 2336.
Close
The image shows Eshna Kutty dancing with a hula hoop.(Instagram/@eshnakutty)
The image shows Eshna Kutty dancing with a hula hoop.(Instagram/@eshnakutty)

Eshna Kutty hula hoops while wearing a flowy skirt, video wows people

By Srimoyee Chowdhury
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 08:25 AM IST
“It’s like you’re flowing like a golden ocean. So effortless,” wrote an Instagram user while commenting on the video.
Close
The image shows Nova the cat.(Facebook/@Animal Friends)
The image shows Nova the cat.(Facebook/@Animal Friends)

Cat missing from New Jersey for four years found at Pittsburgh

By Srimoyee Chowdhury
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 04:28 PM IST
The caption goes on to say how Nova found her way one day to the house of Diane, a volunteer at the shelter.
Close
The image shows Samantha Hartsoe removing the mirror.(Twitter/@CheyMillz)
The image shows Samantha Hartsoe removing the mirror.(Twitter/@CheyMillz)

Woman finds entire apartment behind bathroom mirror. Post may make you gasp

By Srimoyee Chowdhury
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 02:52 PM IST
Netizens pointed out that the odd discovery in the apartment in New York City can be a plot for a mystery or horror movie.
Close
S Siddharth adopted a macaw for three months.(ANI)
S Siddharth adopted a macaw for three months.(ANI)

Man adopts macaw at Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad

ANI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 01:02 PM IST
Siddharth also expressed his commitment in conservation of wild animals.
Close
The image shows the kid playing ice hockey.(Twitter/@rexchapman)
The image shows the kid playing ice hockey.(Twitter/@rexchapman)

Kid scores goal in ice hockey in the cutest way. Netizens are rooting for him

By Srimoyee Chowdhury
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:19 PM IST
The video starts with the toddler well bundled in warm clothes standing in front of a small goal.
Close
Rohan Philem Singh, a cyclist who has been conducting cycling campaigns since 2018 for various humane and environmental issues,(ANI)
Rohan Philem Singh, a cyclist who has been conducting cycling campaigns since 2018 for various humane and environmental issues,(ANI)

Cycling for humanity: Manipur man cycles to raise funds for people in need

ANI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:17 PM IST
Currently, during his eighth cycling expedition, Rohan targets to feed the hungry.
Close
Being a completely visually impaired person, Ravi had to face a lot of challenges since the beginning.(ANI)
Being a completely visually impaired person, Ravi had to face a lot of challenges since the beginning.(ANI)

Meet this visually impaired music teacher from Hyderabad

ANI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 11:54 AM IST
Ravi said that he found his passion in music at a young age.
Close
The image is a screengrab from the clip by Matty Chymbor.(Instagram/@mattychymbor)
The image is a screengrab from the clip by Matty Chymbor.(Instagram/@mattychymbor)

Man shows how it feels to have coffee and tea after waking up. Laughs guaranteed

By Srimoyee Chowdhury
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 10:20 AM IST
People couldn’t stop laughing at the hilarious representation of the two beverages shown in the clip.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP