KATHMANDU, Nepal – David D’Angelo of Ludlow had been sitting in a coffee shop on April 25 halfway around the world in Pokhara, Nepal, when the ground started to shake. As he and the people around him realized what was happening, they ran out into the street.
Back home, Dino D’Angelo woke up at 3:15 a.m. to a text message from Chris, the oldest of his three sons. Its message was simple: “Call me.”
Chris had been getting ready to leave for a vacation when he turned on the news – earthquake in Nepal; thousands injured; death toll rising. The headlines alone were enough to stop morning routines, furiously reading initial accounts of the earthquake or gape-jawed staring at pictures of destruction on television screens.
When Dino turned on the news he heard Kathmandu and Pokhara referenced over and over. He said those were the two places in Nepal he knew, not as foreign cities, but as the current home and weekend destination, respectively, of David.
At 4:30 a.m., Dino heard from David. He was safe and staying in Nepal to assist with recovery efforts.
David’s mother Brenda affectionately refers to David as her “gypsy son.” Beginning with studying abroad in Ireland while attending Champlain College in Burlington, VT, David has been on the go. A semester in Ireland, another in Thailand, stints in Phoenix and Providence, RI with AmeriCorps and then Salt Lake City, UT, he has yet to stop moving.
While in Thailand for his final semester, he interned online for the United States Consulate in Nepal, eventually visiting the country for 10 days. A combination of love for the country, working with resettling refuges in the United States and meeting entrepreneurs in Utah hurled David into his next adventure head first: Recharge Labs.
Recharge Labs, David said, is designed to alleviate energy poverty and create entrepreneurial opportunities. The company installs solar powered charging stations in communities where costumers pay a deposit for a battery pack. The battery pack powers the customers’ homes for four to 30 hours, and when needed, they can swap out the battery for another at the recharge station.
Earlier in 2015, David and his business partner took Recharge Labs to Nepal.
“When I was here with the U.S. State Department in 2012, I witnessed first hand how energy poverty was presenting a development challenge,” David said. “Loadshedding is constant, and many communities in hard to reach places rely on harmful and expensive solutions, such as kerosene. I decided in Utah that I wanted to be part of the solution.”
The need to be a part of the solution has not stopped only evolved, since the earthquake that devastated his new home.
Amid the chaos, the screams and the stress, David and his group traveled 20 minutes outside of downtown Pokhara. He said the damage to the village was significant. Within hours of the earthquake, they had scraped together the money to help one family repair their home.
David wrote Reminder Publications, “Especially in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, there are thousands of homes and buildings that are destroyed. Rescue teams and citizen volunteers gather around these areas and remove brick by brick in an effort to uncover bodies that will almost inevitably be found under the rubble. The city is quiet; most places are still closed. People are rushing to grocery stores to grab supplies to help them get by for the next month, preparing themselves for the food and water shortages, which may affect all of Kathmandu Valley.
“Across the city, there are thousands of homeless people living under tarps in city fields. Refugee camps have essentially been created in the city. We have conversations with some of these people who have lost everything – their brothers, their sons and daughters, their mother and father, their homes. Everyone is still in shock, everyone is unclear about how they will rebuild and once again achieve a ‘normal life.’
“Hundreds of planes are coming in and out of Kathmandu, delivering aid and military personal to assist in the relief and rebuilding efforts. Sometimes, we mistaken the light tremors caused by large planes as earthquakes, and we rush outside to seek safety. We are traumatized, like so many others here.”
The switch flipped. There was no talk of him catching a plane home, Dino said. David was staying and he was going to help.
Through Recharge Labs, David set up a Go Fund Me page to help raise money, which will provide semi-permanent shelters and lights to families whose homes were destroyed.
“Everything happens for a reason, and I believe my being here during the earthquake is quite providential. I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and partly because of this mindset, I feel like my purpose and duty is to serve those affected by this crisis,” David said. “We all can make a difference if we apply ourselves, if we take initiative, and most importantly, if we maintain good intentions. I have always had a passion for serving others. This is an opportunity for Recharge Labs and me to continue to live out our passion and serve others.”
His family said how quickly David jumped into action came as little surprise.
“He knew right away that the devastation was horrible and he would do everything in his power to help people and do what he’s been doing for the past couple of years. It wasn’t that surprising,” his younger brother Jon said. “I was a little concerned; his safety is very important to all of us, but at the same time you’re just very proud of him for doing it. I didn’t talk to him until about almost 12 hours after the earthquake because he didn’t have any type of service and he already had a plan in place.”
According to Brenda, his actions reflect his character.
“He was there to help originally, and I think that’s just the type of person he is,” she said. “He doesn’t really think of himself first.”
In the days since the earthquake, David and his colleagues have raised more than $9,000. The overall goal is $25,000, with 100 percent of the money going to local aid.
The page has been shared more than 650 times and donations have come in from more than 100 people thus far.
“It’s nice to see such a strong support system of friends and family. Quite frankly, I’m not surprised about Dave’s efforts because when he sets his mind to something, he’s at 150 percent always,” Dino said.