David Mauro always knew he'd have a close connection to his friend Mingma. Being tied to each other over a deadly crevasse at 29,000 feet will do that to you.
"It's an incredibly powerful bond," said Mauro.
Mingma was Mauro's Sherpa when he climbed Mount Everest in 2013. The two kept in touch, and when Mauro found out his friend had lost his home in last year's Nepal earthquake, he decided to do more than just send money.
"I wanted to make sure he would be taken care of and he would have that house," said Mauro. "The only way for that to happen was for me to build it."
Mauro raised $18,000 and assembled a team of 7 friends, including two engineers, a doctor and a master carpenter. They traveled 7,000 miles, including a treacherous 5 day trek to Mingma's village at 13,000 feet. Part of it was spent crossing a dizzying suspension bridge hundreds of feet above the Earth.
"The bridges are freeways," said Mauro. "You'll get a train of yaks coming through. They don't give space. You have to lean up against the rail and then they smear yak snot on you."
Mauro knew if he just sent money for Mingma to rebuild his home, it would most likely just be destroyed in the next earthquake. So, the team brought their own tools and building supplies, buying rebar and other heavy materials there. As if all that weren't incredible enough, Mauro's team, a pack of Sherpas and a caravan of yaks hauled it all to Mingma's village. The trip was 38 miles -- all of it on foot.
"I can't tell you how many times I thought, if only we could call Home Depot and have it trucked, it would solve all our problems," laughed Mauro.
The Americans hired 15 Sherpas, taught them how to build by western standards, and In three months Mingma's family of six went from living under a tarp to having a lovely home with luxuries like running water and plumbing.
"We made sure it was designed and built strong enough to withstand another earthquake," said Mauro.
With the $4,000 the team had left over, they funded two schools and a health clinic. The hope is that the Sherpas will use their American tools and training to build more structurally sound homes in the village.
On a grander scale, Mauro, a Bellingham financial planner, hopes people will hear his story and think about committing their own acts of charity and kindness.
"You don't have to go to another country and build someone a house," he said. "If you know a neighbor is hungry, bring them a bag of food. It's incredible the connections you can make from one person helping another."