It's been less than a month since the McLeods have returned from Nepal, but the experience of surviving a massive earthquake that struck the country in April is still fresh.
Alex and Tricia McLeod were trekking through the country on a trip to celebrate their anniversary when the 7.8-magnitude quake hit on April 25th.
After a two-week journey spanning from remote mountainous communities to the capital city of Kathmandu where they helped out wherever they could, they boarded a flight and returned home to Cranbrook.
While they've settled back into the family routine of work, kids and school, the memories of the devastation and of the life-long friendships they made still linger.
"I wouldn't have changed anything," said Tricia McLeod. "I wish I could take back the hurt and the pain and the devastation, but what we learned of Nepal and of ourselves and of mankind—I would not have changed this trip for the world."
The McLeods were in a Nepali teahouse when the earthquake hit just before noon local time. Their guide, Ang Pema Sherpa, dove over Tricia to protect her with his body as the building started to collapse.
As people ran outside, he was struck in the head by a falling brick.
Despite some initial concern from the wound, Pema was able to receive medical attention and is on the road to recovery.
However, the McLeod's bond extends beyond Pema and into his family, as they are also connected with his brother, Rinee Sherpa and his brother's son, Phingo Sherpa Chewa.
Rinee's home was destroyed by the earthquake, but he's been able to build a temporary shelter. However, complicating the recovery and reconstruction efforts is the fact that monsoon season is fast approaching.
While the quake itself caused an immeasurable amount of destruction, aftershocks also rattled the country in the following days.
Witnessing the tragedy and death around them as they tried to help out where they could, McLeod came to believe they weren't going to make it out of the country alive.
"You were just going to keep helping until the day that you actually died because you just came to accept that you were going to die, that you probably weren't going to see your kids again," she said.
"...It really shocked me that we actually made it back home. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever thought that we would hug our kids again."
Unable to remain idle after witnessing the devastation first-hand, Tricia is spearheading a fundraising campaign to raise money that she can send over directly to people she met while on her trip.
She is collecting donations personally, via cash, cheque, or email transfer, rather than setting up a crowd funding page such as GoFundMe because those websites take a percentage of the total.
That means donors have to have an element of trust in McLeod, as she will be splitting the money between Rinee, who is rebuilding his home, and Dinesh Deuja, who will be taking the other half to help with reconstruction efforts in a small village in the district of Sindupalchok that was one of the hardest-hit places of the quake, with over 2100 confirmed deaths.
"Now is when they need help," she said. "With monsoons coming and dysentery and the dead animals and bodies and open sewage…you thought it was bad, this is when it's going to get bad."
While in the village in the Sindupalchok district, the McLeods had stuffed a hockey bag full of apples and t-shirts collected from a remote hospital they had helped clean up. Tricia became known as the 'Apple Lady' as they trekked further up the mountain, handing out apples and t-shirts to mobs of kids.
While the kids had smiles on their faces and proudly wore their new t-shirts, McLeod was also struck with feelings of helplessness.
"I didn't give you a place to sleep," she said. "I didn't keep you out of the rain. I didn't help you bury your dead cow. I really did not help you.
"It made me feel good for a while, but did I really do anything?"
There's no deadline for her fundraising efforts save for a loose goal of $10,000 - $15,000. Because she's collecting everything herself and sending the money directly to the individuals themselves, she can't issue a tax-deductible charitable receipt.
While donations have been pouring in through a Facebook page that she's created, she's also fanning the flames for grassroots movement to keep people aware of the Nepali recovery and reconstruction efforts.
In that spirit, Bumbletree Baby is hosting a bake sale on Saturday, June 6th, from 10 a.m - 1 p.m., where people can stop by for some treats with proceeds going towards McLeod's Nepal fund. They will be accepting donations in the form of money and also for baked goods that can be sold at the table. When it comes to cash or cheque donations, nothing is too big or too small. Even something as little as $5 can go a long way in Nepal, she said.
For more information about the fundraising efforts, contact McLeod directly at 250-417-7655 or email at email@example.com