LCHS Grad Steps Up Big for Nepal

Candice Young has stepped foot in 40 countries, including 27 since she graduated from UC Davis in 2011 with a degree in biological sciences.
Along the way, no nation has captured the 26-year-old La Cañada High School graduate’s heart like Nepal.
“I just fell in love with it,” Young said. “It’s a third-world country, so it’s definitely on the needy side because they’re faced with natural disasters and there was the political unrest of a decade ago … and a fuel crisis with India. They just get hammered left and right — but the most beautiful part about it is they’ve got these really resilient people [who] are quirky and smart.
“And the first time I was in Nepal, I ended up on a trek. I wasn’t even into trekking. It was just a thing to do, according to Google. And it took me through the Himalayas, 20 days of seeing the most beautiful mountains on Earth.”
That first glorious visit was two years ago, when she was still in that “country stamp-collecting mode,” intending just to stay in Nepal for a month and move on.
Now she’s tied to the place. She’s seeded the foundation of her own disaster relief campaign — Trek Relief for Langtang Valley, it’s called — in the South Asian nation. She’s working to collect funds to rebuild a valley that desperately needs help recovering from the deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake in April 2015, but is getting scant attention.
Young’s job as a fisheries observer on commercial fishing boats in Alaska allows her the flexibility to travel during her off-months. She used some of her free time early this year to return to Nepal and volunteer for the American-based NGO All Hands Volunteers, a first for her.
“I always knew that Candice had a good heart and liked to help people,” mom Linda Young said. “Seeing her grow up from an LCHS cheerleader, to working on a boat in the Bering Sea, to volunteering in Nepal to help earthquake victims, her changes have really stunned and impressed me.”
Within a few weeks, Candice Young was tapping into her experiences as a former president of the LCHS Key Club when she was named the program’s project coordinator. She oversaw more than 70 volunteers who, in three months’ time, built 50 homes, 52 toilets and rubbled hundreds of other homes.
Young also was charged with making sure her team had enough fuel to reach its destinations — in the midst of a fuel crisis, an experience that made her appreciate being able to gas up in California in a new way.
“That was my favorite part of the job,” Young said, describing a scene in which she, a young Chinese-American woman in the midst of an all-male Nepali crowd, would stand in front of large supply trucks at the fuel pumps, blocking their way to ensure her vehicles got enough fuel.
The fuel station owner appreciated her pluck, she said, and he became a friend, regularly offering her chiyaa (milk tea) and donuts at his teashop each day.
“Being able to look back on that situation, I feel like I can do anything now,” said Young, who is determined to help the Langtang people by directing tourists their way.
She said families living in the valley relied on tourism for 90% of their income, but the earthquake — which killed nearly 9,000 people — decimated so much of the region that guides have stopped recommending the route, leading many to believe it’s no longer traversable.
That’s not true, said Young, who began her trek through the region with what she describes as “intrepid curiosity” that in turn became an experience that left her “deeply unsettled.” She saw house-sized boulders resting in the middle of crushed teahouses and was approached over and over by villagers pleading for business, offering tea and lodging.
She felt she had to help, she said, so she’s launched a crowdsourcing effort at generosity.com. The campaign is intended to direct more tourism to the area by hosting trips in the fall or spring that will include the services of an English-speaking Nepali guide and accommodations such as meals of rice and lentils, vegetables and curry.
She’s also striving to raise money for the Langtang Reconstruction and Management Committee, a group of locals whose goal is to get Langtang families out of tents.
“For me, growing up in La Cañada and having access to pretty much anything I need and going there and seeing a lot of destruction, I was taken aback,” Young said. “It’s one thing when you see pictures, and when you see it in real life, you’re like, ‘Whoa.’ You take a step back.”
And then you take another step forward on the trek.

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