MOST EVERYONE WHO shops at the Whole Foods store on Blithedale Avenue in Mill Valley knows Jay Tamang. He’s worked a register there since the store opened in 2010. Between his time there and his five years with other stores in the chain, Tamang has become known for two things: his sunny disposition and his nonprofit educational work in Bhalche, Nepal, his native village.
When did you come to the U.S.?
In 2004. When I left, my youngest boy was only 25 days old. I left my two sons and wife behind. They came here in 2006.
Why did you leave?
Communists were trying to take over the country. They were kidnapping and torturing and demanding money from poor people. It wasn’t safe to live there.
How did you end up in Marin?
I had a friend in Mill Valley I met through my work in Nepal, where I was a tour organizer and trekking guide. I organized her trips for her.
And Whole Foods?
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do here, and my friend suggested I work in a grocery store. She took me into a store and she walked me through the aisles and I was thinking, “Oh my god. How am I going to learn all this stuff?” There are so many different kinds of food here in the United States.
What’s your job?
I am a cashier, a checker. At the Miller (Avenue) store I was a supervisor for almost a year, but to do that you need to have a flexible schedule and I can’t do that because I have my family.
You like your work?
I love my job. I meet a lot of good people. I like to be around people and I like interacting with people.
What is Nepal FREED?
My goal is to aid the schools. In many classrooms [in Nepal] there were more than 50, 60, 80 children. The buildings were crumbling. My goal was to rebuild them or expand the classrooms and to help the children. A lot of parents are very poor and they don’t send their children to school because they can’t pay the fees. Since I started Nepal FREED, I’ve built two schools and a library, all of which were destroyed by earthquake in April of 2015. After the earthquake, I rebuilt the high school (for 390 students) and an elementary school (for 58 children).
Nepal photos by Jay Tamang