When a 2015 earthquake devastated the country of Nepal, Mexicali Blues raised $25,000 through the sale of prayer flags. Two years later, the business has agreed to match donations up to $25,000 to build a school in a remote region of the country.
Pete and Kim Erskine, founders of and buyers for the business, recently launched the Mexicali Match campaign. The funds will go to the dZi Foundation, a Colorado-based nonprofit that serves almost 30,000 people in Nepal.
While Mexicali Blues donates 1 percent of all sales to causes both local and international, the campaign allows for a focused fundraising effort rather than a “scattershot” of contributions, Pete Erskine said.
“It’s important to give back, and that’s what this whole company is about,” Pete Erskine said. “This is just us zeroing in on a specific cause.”
In 2015, Mexicali Blues donated 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of Tibetan prayer flags to three organizations providing disaster relief in Nepal after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country, killing nearly 9,000 people and injuring nearly 22,000.
The dZi (pronounced “zee”) Foundation was one of three foundations Mexicali Blues got involved with, and it has maintained the relationship over the years.
“We’ve been really impressed by the work they’re doing and the people involved,” Pete Erskine said. “They’re going where the need is with full transparency. Everything they do is documented and fully disclosed.”
The dZi Foundation has focused its efforts on bringing basic infrastructure, like bridges, toilets, and drinking water systems, to remote villages in Nepal. The foundation has also educated the people of Nepal on new agricultural practices and introduced different crops, including tomatoes.
Another part of the dZi Foundation’s mission is building schools to replace those destroyed in the earthquake. In the interim, before permanent structures are built, the dZi Foundation has built temporary learning centers out of roofing tin.
In 2016, funding for one of the schools the dZi Foundation was building fell short, and the foundation needed $23,000 to complete the project. Mexicali Blues donated the funds, Pete Erskine said.
Last winter, when Pete and Kim Erskine were planning a trip to Nepal, they reached out to the dZi Foundation to see if they could visit the location where the school would be built. They didn’t want to get in the way of the foundation’s work, however, Kim Erskine said.
“We found out later that most donors just fly in and out by helicopter because the village is so remote,” Kim Erskine said.
After a 12-hour drive along a mountain, the Erskines were led on a two-day hike by a Nepalese guide to the village of Rok, Solkhumbu, where they were greeted with open arms, Kim Erskine said.
“When we first arrived, I noticed some kids making necklaces out of red flowers, but I didn’t really think anything of it,” she said. “When we got to the village, the whole community came out to greet us.”
The community gave the Erskines the flower necklaces and Nepalese knives and hosted a feast in their honor. The Erskines were also shown the temporary classroom students were learning in, as well as the site and foundation for the new school Mexicali Blues helped fund.
“The entire time we were there, everything just seemed so surreal,” Kim Erskine said. “The interaction was just so untainted by the outside world. We were able to just be present and be a part of their lives.”
When they returned to the states, the Erskines knew they wanted to do more to support the village and its children.
“These kids, they just want a chance,” Pete Erskine said. “You could just feel that while we were there.”
During a biannual company meeting, the Erskines proposed that Mexicali Blues raise money for an entire school, from start to finish. The entire company was on board, Pete Erskine said.
To kickstart the fundraising campaign, Pete and Kim Erskine will join Ben Ayers, of the dZi Foundation, for a private screening of the documentary “The Last Honey Hunter” at Skidompha Public Library at 7 p.m., Friday, June 16.
The documentary shows the region and culture of the remote villages the dZi Foundation is working to help. After the 36-minute documentary, the Erskines and Ayers will speak about the Mexicali Match campaign and answer questions about the region and the documentary.
The campaign will run until all the funds are raised for the school, which will cost approximately $53,000, Pete Erskine said.
“You can’t change the whole world, but this will change their world,” Kim Erskine said.
To donate or to learn more about Mexicali Match, go to dzi.org/mexicali.