Benefit concert Saturday a chance to repay kindness shown during Nepal visit

While visiting Mount Everest six years ago, Julie Bennett of Olympia got food poisoning. Ramchandra Sapkota, a Nepali who was with her, found her a horse to ride and traveled with her down the mountain so Bennett could reach medical help.

When Sapkota’s home and village were destroyed by the May 12 magnitude-7.8 aftershock, Bennett knew the time had come to repay his kindness.

“I see these major events happen, and like a lot of people, I get this glazed-over feeling, ” she said. “There’s so much challenge we face every day with all the stuff that’s going on in the world.

“When Ramchandra and his family were affected, the glaze went away, and I thought, ‘I have to figure out a way to help.’ ”

Bennett organized a benefit concert, set for Saturday at Traditions Café. Headlining the show will be eclectic brass band Artesian Rumble Arkestra — one of the half-dozen or so bands with which she plays.

Artesian Rumble plays funk, rock, jazz, Latin and more, including covers of Nirvana, the Beastie Boys and Linda Ronstadt. “It’s really about what we can take and turn into something fun,” Bennett said.

Also on the bill are Le Gens des Chutes (French-Canadian music), Deb Collins and Greg Hill (folk), River Scheuerell and Carl Dexter (Irish), Humor & Heart (folk), Pinniped (Irish), and Dale Russ and Mike Saunders (Irish and Scottish). Holly Gwinn Graham will do poetry readings. Greg Starling, who has lost Nepali friends in the quakes, and Hilary Lewis will emcee. The evening will also include a potluck dinner and a silent auction of desserts.

“This seemed the best way to do it,” she said, “to draw on the community I have, with all the skills and talents they have, and see who would come forth. And a lot of people have come forth.”

That includes Traditions, which will keep its cafe open to sell beverages during the event.

The cafe and store has already hosted two benefits for Nepal, raising nearly $10,000, said manager Jody Mackey.

“We even have been covering all of the credit-card charges,” she said. “Every penny people give us goes to Nepal.”

Bennett plans to send the money she raises directly to Sapkota with the goal of helping his entire village and perhaps neighboring ones, too.

Sapkota lost his house, farm, livestock and members of his extended family. His mother was seriously injured.

And that is just one man’s loss. About 1,400 people in Darkha are without shelter following the earthquake, she said. Many don’t even have tarps or other temporary shelter. And the monsoon season has begun early this year.

“There are a lot of people who are sleeping out in the rain,” Bennett said. “It’s bad. It’s like our winter here in the Pacific Northwest, except it’s warm. It’s relentless rain.

“That was Ramchandra’s really huge concern right after the earthquake,” she said.

The two met when Bennett traveled to Nepal with Medical Mercy Canada, which provides medical and dental care to villages in Nepal. She had volunteered to photograph the mission, and Sapkota organized travel within Nepal.

Some of the group traveled to Mount Everest base camp after the mission, and it was on that trip that Bennett got sick. She was at 17,000 feet when symptoms struck, and she needed to get down to 15,000 feet to be airlifted out for medical care.

It was Sapkota who found her a horse and accompanied her down the mountain, and it was far from easy to travel while suffering from vomiting and diarrhea. “There were some funny moments,” she said.

“I am grateful that Ramchandra helped me get off Mount Everest, and I really felt a need to help out,” she said. “I have a direct connection with somebody who’s directly affected. I can make a difference in my own small way for his particular neighborhood.

“What if my neighborhood was destroyed?” she added. “How would I be affected?”