Mattakeese Wharf Benefit

By Sean Corcoran

(Listen to an audio version of this story).

More than a dozen Cape restaurants and food purveyors gathered recently at Mattakeese Wharf in Barnstable Village to help out two of their own. An uncle and his nephew, both foreign farm and restaurant workers from Nepal, were severely injured within days of each other in separate car accidents this past August.

Mark Begley of Beach Point Oysters was happy to be using his shucking knife Tuesday night, even though he had about 300 oysters to open, and, he was giving them away for free.

Mark Begley: "A number of us, being from the Cape, hearing about an accident like happened here, not too far from the Mattakeese Wharf ... we looked for an opportunity to do something, and as soon as we heard about tonight's event, we were, really in a split second, ready to come and do what we could."

Begley, along with dozens of others in the Cape food industry, came to Mattakeese Wharf this week to help two local farm and restaurant workers, Chhodha Lama and his uncle Chewang Rinchen Lama. In a tragic stroke of irony, both men were hit by vehicles within just a few days of each other this past summer in Barnstable.

30-year-old Chhodha Lama got the worst of it. He was struck by a car Aug. 3, while walking his bicycle up Commerce Road. Tim Friary, who employs both men in his fields at Cape Cod Organic Farm, says Chhodha had just left his dishwashing job at Mattakeese Wharf for the night when he was hit.

Tim Friary: "Basically it was a hit and run. The lady got out of the car, looked at him., And he said, "Home, hospital, please." He was pretty beat up and he was explaining that. And she got back in the car and left. And he got scared. He got under the bushes, he thought she was coming back to run him over, so."

The impact broke Chhodha's left ankle and shattered his right leg. After a few minutes of hiding under a bush, he began to crawl for help.

Tim Friary: "He tried crawling back to 6A, to home, but then he figured my farm was closer, so he started crawling back. He crawled a couple, 300 yards, before somebody found him. And he was bleeding pretty good, too. It was a sad scene.

Paul Venditti, the general manager and Lama's boss at Mattakeese Wharf, was one of the first people to arrive at Chhodha's side.

Paul Venditti: "It was one of the ugliest scenes I've ever seen. Him curled up n the side of the road, scared as can be, not being able to speak English. Trying to speak with the ambulance and so forth."

Five days after the accident, 48-year-old Donna Meek of West Yarmouth was charged with leaving the scene of an accident with personal injury and operating to endanger. Her case is still pending in Barnstable District Court, where she's pleaded not guilty.

Then, just a few days after Chhodha Lama was injured, his uncle, Chewang Rinchen Lama, broke his leg when he was hit by a delivery truck while riding his moped in Barnstable, not far from Friary's farm.

Tim Friary: "It is kind of a strange situation that that would happen to two people that are living in the same house, 11 days apart.... But this had nothing to do with their driving or anything. It had nothing to do that they were doing wrong with their vehicles or bicycle. I mean, it seemed to be just a slip of bad luck."

Two months later, the men are still recovering from their injuries, Friary says. And being out of work doesn't just affect them. Their families back in Nepal also have lost an important stream of income.

Tim Friary: "What they do is support their family, their extended family and then the village. The money, it goes, they work hard and support a lot of people. It is not just like just supporting our immediate family, they are supporting an extended family also and villages, and people from other villages come in and look for money, too, ya know, support. It is a way different society over there. A lot of caring, sharing and compassion."

Both men are in the United States on temporary work visas, and their medical bills will be covered by insurance. But because they're still recovering, they have no way to take care of their day-to-day needs. That's where the friends the Lamas have made over the past few years come in, Friary says.

Tim Friary: "I have a lot of respect for them. And when they go hit, it made me very sad. It made my heart very empty and stuff like that. I felt like I had a social responsibility to help them out and take care of them. I feel good about that. We've done well."

Proceeds from the benefit and ongoing fundraising will be split between Chhodha Lama and Chewang Rinchen Lama to help them and their family through the winter. Both are expected to be recovered enough to return to work by next season.

Anyone interested in donating to the Lamas can contact Paul or Laurie Venditti at Mattakeese Wharf at 508-362-4511.

Restaurants and businesses participating in the fundraiser:

902 Main
Brewster Fish House
L'Alouette Bistro
Mattakeese Wharf
Naked Oyster
The Old Yarmouth Inn The Red Pheasant, and The Wicked Oyster
Barnstable Sea Farms
Beach Point Oysters, and Great Marsh Sea Farms
Creative Baking Company
Kayak Cookies, and Paul Marks, Inc.
Pain D'Avignon

Broadcast October 5, 2006

Sean Corcoran reports for WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR Station.