Seventeen-year-old Matt Moniz was climbing Everest when the massive earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, killing more than 2,000 and triggering an avalanche that claimed at least 19 lives on the mountain.
After living through the tragedy, the Colorado teen chose to remain in Nepal and lead an effort to help survivors in remote villages.
“You couldn’t really see the avalanche until it was literally coming right through the clouds right on top of you,” Moniz told CNN.
The accomplished climber survived by ducking behind a boulder with his climbing partner and Sherpa. ” Had I been six minutes slower, I might not be writing this story, he wrote on his blog.
Along with other survivors at base camp, Moniz and his climbing partner, Willie Benegas, immediately began helping the wounded.
“Willie went straight to the clinic up there to do triage and first aid work, and I kind of went around and helped [carry] people,” he said. “We all kind of came together as one team and really worked together and saved a lot of lives.”
Moniz, who received first aid training as an Eagle Scout, “was pretty much ready for that moment,” his father Mike Moniz told CNN.
After getting safely down the mountain, the teen faced a difficult decision.
“I had a plane ticket back to Colorado and a plane ticket back to Kathmandu,” he wrote. ” I chose Nepal.”
Upon witnessing the mass devastation, Moniz and his fellow climbers devised what he calls a “remarkably powerful plan to help the people of Nepal get back to their feet.”
Their goal is to hire around 1,000 Nepali porters to carry supplies into remote Himalayan villages before the monsoon season begins and makes delivering supplies nearly impossible.
The aid effort will also give a much-needed economic boost to Nepal’s struggling Sherpas. With this plan, “the money stays in the villages and helps them purchase supplies to rebuild,” he wrote.
Moniz and his partners have raised almost $100,000. The team was in Kathmandu on Tuesday when a second 7.3 magnitude earthquake rattled the already devastated nation.
“The scene twisted my heart in ways it’s hard to comprehend,” Moniz wrote. “Watching the already traumatized citizens of Kathmandu running through clouds of brown dust, screaming and crying, wondering why this keeps happening to them.”
Despite what he calls a “grueling month” of two earthquakes and an avalanche, Moniz remains optimistic. While his group is focused on remote regions, “there is no reason the concept cannot spread throughout Nepal,” he wrote.
“Destiny definitely put him there to help out,” his father said. “More than that, he’s dedicated to continue to help.”
Here’s how you can help.