Written by Amanda Razani
Terry Mikeska, a local philanthropist and volunteer, recently returned from his 61st mission trip to Nepal.
Mikeska, and his sister, Rebekah Ocker, went to Nepal in November. A nurse, Ocker wanted to join her brother a trip to Nepal, and her dream was brought to fruition by president and CEO of HMS, Bill Lucia, the company Ocker works for. Lucia surprised them by personally funding the entire health portion of the trip.
Mikeska and Ocker spent eight days on the eastern side of Nepal where they completed six projects from delivering rice pots and supplies to sharing water purification systems and visiting the orphanages where they provided clothing, personal care products and knitted items. They helped as many people as possible in poverty stricken and remote areas of the country.
Ocker was brought to tears when she realized their efforts were not enough to help everyone. Many children standing in tattered clothing and in poor health, happily waited for supplies to be delivered off a truck but did not receive anything.
“It was very difficult to handle at times, and overwhelming, to see the needs of the children in these poor villages,” Ocker said.
After a devastating earthquake in 2015, Nepal was left in shambles and is still a long way from a full recovery. Many people died during the natural disaster, and some children and elderly were left without parents or caregivers. Mikeska has watched kids grow up in the orphanages he visits. Food and space are the biggest needs for these children. Other critical needs are restrooms and kitchens.
Mikeska plans to go back to Nepal later this year and would like to tackle some of these bigger projects and deliver more supplies and hats. One of the first things he delivered on his initial mission trip was a box of knitted hats and baseball caps that had been donated by volunteers. Mikeska says everyone who received a hat was overjoyed and grateful for their gift, and he thinks it is time to have another cap drive.
“Each time I go on these trips, I see my friends with their knitted hats and caps, and they have taken such care of them; just cherishing what they have,” Mikeska said.
Mikeska says a U.S. dollar goes a very long way in Nepal, and the citizens are extremely willing to volunteer their time and labor so that all donations can be put toward supplies. As an example, in 2017, he was able to have a school built in Nepal for less than $10,000, due to a generous donation from a San Angelo community member and a philanthropist.
“I try to stretch every dollar, and rarely incur any expenses, because I want all donations to go toward helping the people of Nepal,” Mikeska said.
To save money, he uses sky miles for his mission trips, and packs very lightly to allow more room for supplies in his luggage. He also stays with his friends in the villages and enlists their negotiation skills to ensure the best prices for each project.
In 2012, Mikeska was first introduced to the people of Nepal when he was contacted by a random stranger on Facebook and decided to respond back. After a year of chatting back and forth, he became friends with this stranger and his brother, Sujan and Rajan Kaffle. It was at that time that a lifelong friendship was established, and he helped them attend college to earn their degrees.
When the earthquake hit in 2015, he didn’t hear from them for several days. He finally received a call letting him know they were safe, but the situation was not good. People spent days under tarps in rainy conditions with little food.
Mikeska noticed that most people were in need of rice pots to boil water and cook their food. He named his project Fill the Rice Pot and ended up with $17,000 in donations for his first trip.
“I am humbled by all the people that hear my story and want to help every year,” Mikeska said. “I couldn’t do this without them.”
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