It Takes a Village

Article by:

Stephen Liu
EO Malaysia
Stephen Liu - EO Malaysia

Everyone in EO has their story of coming together to triumph, an inspirational tale anchored by enough experiences and lessons learned to motivate constant unity. My story is one that I share with many people, and one I believe speaks to the heart of our organization, its members and the power of our peer-to-peer community. This is a tribute to my good friend, Namgyal Sherpa.

The morning of 25 April began like any other for me and countless others in Nepal. Little did we know that a 7.8-magnitude earthquake was about to devastate much of the surrounding region. I was stunned, to say the least. I had no way of knowing just how personally involved I would be in the tragedy, nor the circumstances that would call upon our EO community.

I was on my way to a Forum meeting when my dear friend, Datin Lee Soo Soo, called with news that her friends’ two daughters, Jane and June Gan, were stranded on a Mount Everest trek north of Lukla. The young women had gone hiking when the earthquake hit, and in its aftermath, network connections were severely damaged. Their family in Malaysia had no means of contacting them or ensuring their safety. Datin was calling on the family’s behalf, wondering if my EO connections could help. Having children of my own, my heart went out to the sisters and their family. I contacted EO Nepal’s Namgyal Sherpa, and he generously agreed to assist.

With Namgyal’s support, the sisters’ family didn’t have to wait long for news of their daughters. They were safe at Everest Base Camp. As it happened, the earthquake struck four hours into their excursion to Lobouche, a small settlement east of the camp, but they were able to head back to safety. They were now making plans to travel south to Namche Bazaar, a hard, two-day journey. With news of their safety, the family desperately sought to organize an emergency air evacuation.

Unfortunately, the Nepalese government had placed a ban on all privately owned helicopters retrieving those who were capable of hiking down the mountain. Instead, Jane and June would need to travel by foot for another two days to Lukla, where they would take a plane home. So, the sisters continued south, hoping to return to Malaysia upon their arrival. Unfortunately, this was not to be. All flights in and out of the village had been cancelled due to poor weather conditions and crowding, and Jane and June were only two of more than one-thousand trekkers grounded until further notice.

It was at this point that Namgyal generously offered the sisters free accommodation at his hotel, Yeti Mountain Homes, where he assured their comfort and wellbeing. I would later learn that Namgyal had, in fact, opened up his hotel to everyone stranded in Lukla free of charge, until they could make their way home. In addition to this favor, Namgyal contacted his staff at Tara Airlines to put Jane and June on the next available flight to Kathmandu. Three days after arriving in the village, the women boarded a plane to Kathmandu and were greeted by a Malaysian diplomat when they touched down. That same day, they were put on a flight to Malaysia, finally on their way home to overjoyed family and friends.

This story is my tribute to Namgyal. In spite of all the challenges he faced in Nepal—including ensuring his own family’s safety— he was gracious enough to lend a helping hand to anyone who asked. He truly is an amazing person, and the EO community should be proud to count him as a fellow member. I believe we often underestimate just how generous and powerful our network is. Yet every day we go out of our way to help each other, support our journeys and share our stories. That’s the power of EO. And that’s a reminder of how we are all truly EO Together.

Stephen Liu is an EO Malaysia member who currently serves as APAC’s Mentorship Director (FY2014-2016). He has run Ridpest, a pest management company, since 1985, and is a proud father of two children: Victor (29) and Betty (28). Contact Stephen at [email protected].

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