After an earthquake on April 25, 2015 shook up the lives of her loved ones in Nepal, Islander Joy Dunning set out on a quest to help her family help itself rebuild.

Dunning studied abroad in Nepal for a year during college, and lived with a farming family in the Kathmandu Valley. The family, consisting of 10 people spanning four generations and all living in one household, immediately accepted her as one of their own.

“Our home was traditional, made of brick, mortared together with mud,” she wrote on her fundraising page on YouCaring.com. “We drank well water, bathed and washed laundry in a stream, used candles for light, and trekked precariously to the outhouse every night.”

They had very few belongings: only two sets of clothes each, no running water, no electricity and no motorized vehicle of any kind. But they lost everything they did have — their home, farm and livestock — in the earthquake.

“My family’s home was destroyed in minutes,” she said. “They were unable to salvage any of their belongings. Sadly, my Ba [Nepali dad] died soon afterwards.”

A year later, Dunning said she wants to reach out to the Island community to help her “change the life of the family that changed my life.”

“I have often contemplated how I could ever reciprocate their unconditional love, and I’m hoping for this chance now,” she wrote.

Dunning is a 1996 Mercer Island High School graduate who opened her business, Sirin Massage, on the Island in 2004. In the years she has practiced massage, she said she has found “that there are more things that make us similar than separate us.”

She stayed in touch with her Nepali family after her program, and visited them three times over the years. After the earthquake, it took her months to locate them.

“Now that I have found my family, my goal is to raise the money for them to build a new home,” she wrote. “As of right now, their most basic of human needs are not being met. With no farmland, crops, and with the loss of my Ba, it is impossible for them to come out of this on their own.”

Dunning set up a fundraising site to help the family get back on their feet, and is more than halfway to her goal of $25,000.

She hopes to raise enough money to help them build a new home and farm, empowering the family by giving them the self-sustainability they had before the quake.

Dunning’s profession, massage therapy, reflects her desire to help and connect with others. She discussed this in an interview with the website, Live the Process.

“When we’re relaxed and lying down, we are all vulnerable and childlike,” she said. “[We] all have the same desire to be free from pain, and to be treated in a kind and loving way.”

Dunning has been donating portions of proceeds from her massage work to this cause. To donate, visit youcaring.com

View the article in the Mercer Island Reporter.