By Signe Predmore
Northwest Asian Weekly
Mohan Gurung has remarkable dedication to his fellow Seattle-area Nepalis. He is an energetic, productive man, who has been actively involved in the creation and operation of a variety of nonprofits that promote Nepali culture, provide assistance to new immigrants, and work to strengthen their growing community.
Gurung arrived in the United States in 1993, at the age of 37, “with the dream of providing for my family and to see a new world,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful journey for someone who was born and raised in rural Nepal.” Gurung said the “gorgeous weather and the sky” of the Pacific Northwest helped convince him to choose this area as his adopted home.
“When I came to this country, my early years involved multiple jobs to put my two kids through college,” he said. Gurung has been married for 37 years and has two adult children.
“When I had some free time, I would get involved with our community as I derive considerable amount of satisfaction doing such work,” Gurung said. He strongly believes in the obligation to improve conditions for the next generation.
Gurung founded the Nepal Seattle Society (NSS) in 1999 and currently serves as its president. The organization’s mission, as stated on their website, is to unite all people of Nepali origin in the state of Washington, to preserve and promote Nepali culture, and to foster relations with friends of Nepal.
Part of NSS’s work is to assist newcomers from Nepal with housing, jobs, education, and visa requirements. Gurung estimates that when he first arrived to the area, the Nepali community comprised fewer than 100 people; now it is likely more than 3,000 strong.
The cultural and language barriers can be intimidating at first, he said, “but when someone helps you, it’s much easier.”
One of Gurung’s recent projects was the founding of a nonprofit called Nepal Global Trade USA in 2011, which aims “to facilitate trade between those two countries and promote bilateral exchange of culture and goodwill,” he explained. The idea, said Gurung, is to set up not only trade in goods, but also an exchange of skills and training.
“I was thinking about how to do something sustainable, rather than, ‘We have no food’ — give food, or ‘we have no money’ —give the money,” he said. “For a time, that’s OK, but it does not last that long.”
Gurung also serves on the Economic Development Committee of the Commission of Asian Pacific American Affairs. In addition, he was appointed to the board of directors for Non-Resident Nepal USA, a global organization for Nepalis living outside of Nepal, and has helped raise funds for school development projects in Nepal.
As a young adult in his home country, Gurung worked as a physician’s assistant and medical professional for 13 years. He had hopes of continuing in this field after coming to the United States, and perhaps even becoming a doctor, however, the barriers for entry were too high, he said. Without prior clinical experience in this county, he wasn’t eligible for most positions.
“So,” he said, “I was thinking, ‘how about a restaurant?’” In its own way, Gurung thought, restaurant work can contribute positively to people’s medical care.
“Food is your health, food is your medicine. Food is also poison if you don’t eat right,” he said.
He currently owns and operates the Everest Kitchen in Shoreline, where his community-fostering spirit continues to shine through.
“It’s more than just a restaurant for me,” he said.” It’s a great place to meet other members of the community and share our unique culture and cuisine with our old and new friends.” (end)
Gurung will be honored at the Top Contributors award dinner on Dec. 6 at the House of Hong Restaurant in Seattle, from 6–9 p.m.
Signe Predmore can be reached at email@example.com.