UPDATE: JULY 2017
At the completion of the pre-monsoon climbing season a few weeks ago Suze and I visited the children who are being educated in Kathmandu through the support of both the Sherpa Future Fund and those of you who are individual sponsors.
The kids in Kathmandu
One of the first things I noticed was how much the children had grown since last year! They are all robust, healthy and outgoing - even if they were a bit shy when we visited. Three of the children had been studying at a school in the outskirts of Kathmandu, so we recently brought them all together to our preferred college that is close to the home of our Nepal Operations Coordinator, Chhiring Sonam Sherpa.
By having them all nearby to his home it much easier for Chhiring to visit regularly and monitor the children through regular outings and interaction with the teachers about each child’s progress and needs. Chhiring’s niece is also one of these children so he has a special place in his heart for them and genuinely cares for them.
Chhiring was relating to us that he was asked by one of the boys how he should explain to other kids who his father is? Chhiring was very quick to tell him that he can tell them that he is his father now, as he is to all these kids.
The SFF pays the costs for the children to return to their home villages in the school holiday season or for their mothers to travel to meet them.
We continue to have close ties with the Juniper Fund who provide additional support to the families of victims of accidents in Nepal’s mountains. With Juniper Fund support we are able to offer vocational training and business grants to the wives and children so they can pursue ongoing training opportunities or start their own businesses.
Thanks to the dedicated fundraising of one generous sponsor, and the board of directors at Mt Aspiring College here in our hometown of Wanaka in New Zealand, a Sherpa boy from Khumjung is now a student at Mt Aspiring College for 12 months. At 15 years old, the international travel and western lifestyle must be in complete contrast to his life in the Khumbu Valley, but while he is here he is focused on developing his English language capabilities and his soccer skills.
He is a self-confessed Ronaldo fan and his team have just won the local under 17 football competition! He is staying with a local family who have their own kids at the school and they are able to provide him with numerous positive experiences during his stay. He has learnt how to swim since he’s been here and is presently snorkelling in Rarotonga with his host family and then he’ll be back to learn cross-country and downhill skiing along with other outdoor skills with his host family.
The SFF has also been contributing to the ongoing education of a Sherpani girl who is studying nursing in Australia and will finish her training next year. Beginning next year we will be supporting two more children – young infants when their fathers died during the earthquake - who will be coming of age to begin their education. These kids would be perfect recipients for personal sponsors through the SFF. Should anybody be in a position to commit to assisting in their futures please make contact with us for details.
The Sherpa Future Fund is dedicated to providing for these children and families for many years yet until they are able to support themselves. Your support is vital in helping us to achieve this and we greatly appreciate that ongoing support so we can continue to make a valuable contribution to the outcomes for these people who lost so much. We know it gets more difficult to continue that support once the intensity of the moment has passed but we welcome what contributions we receive towards this ongoing cause.
Finally, I really want to tip my hat to those of you who are sponsoring one of these kids or making donations to this worthy cause. From what I saw during this last visit to Kathmandu it is very clear to me that their lives are better for it.
UPDATE: JUNE 2016
With the pre monsoon season completed and a return to 'normal’ operations in the Himalaya, we were happy to have enjoyed an event-free season after the tragic outcomes of the previous seasons. This season saw our groups achieve successful outcomes on Mt Everest, Dhaulagiri, Mera Peak and Island Peak in addition to several trekking programs so it was very heartening to observe the Sherpa staff, guides and team members again enjoying the unique environment and rewarding experiences that travel in Nepal delivers. The employment provided to our Nepalese workers enables our staff to further rebuild their lives in an era when tourism is significantly down on 'pre-earthquake’ levels.
The focus of the Sherpa Future Fund has centred on providing education to the children of Nepalese workers who have lost their lives in the mountains and as a result of your generosity, this has enabled us to support a total of 13 children’s schooling and boarding costs while two are yet to start their schooling. All but one of the children who are already at school are now attending boarding schools in Kathmandu that have been selected because they provide caring and supportive environments with dedicated teachers with a strong emphasis on academic results.
We closely supervise the learning progress and well-being of the children through our Nepal Operations Coordinator, Chhiring Sonam, who also has school-age children and personally knows many of the families. I was lucky enough to make a visit to one of the schools with Chhiring Sonam when I was in Kathmandu this last spring and I was very impressed with how attached the children were to him and what care he takes to supervise their education and well-being.
Adventure Consultants pays Chhiring Sonam’s wages and costs directly and not from the Sherpa Future Fund accounts from which all proceeds go directly to the expenses for the children. The school costs cover all meals, stationary, uniform, sporting gear, bedding, school trips and footwear.
We have been very gratified to have received offers from several of you out there who have committed to supporting the costs of an individual child or several siblings from one family for the duration of their education. We are extremely thankful for that support as it enables us to focus the balance of the funds to put the support to those yet to attract an individual sponsor or retain it for children yet to reach school age, or for us to offer support to mothers needing assistance as they rebuild their lives without their husbands and bread-winners.
Our commitment to providing education to these children will continue through to 2030 for the youngest ones and we know the difference this will make to their future lives is palpable.
UPDATE: NOVEMBER 2015
Dear supporter of the AC Sherpa Future Fund,
Apologies for the lack of recent information about the Sherpa Future Fund but I have been very conscious of ensuring the support is going to those who have the greatest need. Due to a paucity of communication with some of our Sherpa team living in remote areas or because telecommunications were knocked out by the earthquake, we did not have clear communications with many of our staff for some time. I didn’t want to send funds indiscriminately but instead wanted to ensure your donation money goes to where it is achieving the most benefit.
Additional to your support towards the SFF we have been involved in several fundraising events to raise money from our local communities for the people of Nepal. In addition to own Sherpa Future Fund we have raised money for the Himalayan Trust, the Juniper Fund, First Steps Himalaya, dZi Foundation and the Helumbu - Solu Khumbu Relief Fund, all of whom are doing a sterling job of getting support directly to specific communities and individuals in their time of need. Throughout that process we have been overwhelmed by the level of sympathy and concern and generosity from people who want to help.
I recently spent 2 months in Nepal on an expedition to Manaslu so I was able to meet with most of our Sherpa team and allocate funds from the SFF. Many of the Sherpas have been in their villages since the earthquake to support families and, in some cases, to get on with the process of rebuilding so I was pleased to have met with a good number of them who were back in Kathmandu or about to embark on expeditions. While in Kathmandu I met with David Morton, founding director of the Juniper Fund that supports the surviving families of Nepalese expedition workers who die in the mountains. David was visiting families and distributing money to support the parents, wives and children of those who have lost their breadwinner. Unlike many Nepalese who perished in the earthquakes, the families of climbing Sherpas and base camp staff on expeditions do have some financial support if all is lost and it is organisations like the Juniper Fund that are there to back them up. This segues well with our Sherpa Future Fund which focuses primarily on the future education of the children with donations to families in dire need when required.
To assist us at Adventure Consultants with administering and managing the Sherpa Future Fund in Nepal, we have contracted a highly skilled man called Chhiring Sonam Sherpa. Chhiring Sonam has previously spent several years working in the USA and has good communication and administrative skills. Over the last couple of months he has been helping us communicate with the families of the Sherpa who died to ensure we are able to understand their needs and to help us arrange schooling and accommodation for the children. All of Chhiring Sonam’s wages and expenses are being paid in full by AC and not from the SFF.
My first objective in Kathmandu was to meet with the Sherpas who were recovering from injuries. Tenzing Bhote, a Climbing Sherpa at Everest base camp this year, had a badly broken arm that was pinned during a fairly major operation and this will keep him from any employment until next season. The fund is paying his living costs until he can return to work in the spring as well as paying for English lessons.
Kitchen boy Ang Tiley - suffered a serious injury to his right eye that required surgery and we were fortunate enough to secure one of the world’s most respected eye surgeons to do the operations. Unfortunately full sight has not been restored in that eye but he is fully recovered otherwise and is keen to return to work next season. Ang Tiley is now taking English lessons and is about to embark on cooking training classes that are all paid for by the SFF. The SFF also provided living costs to support him until the beginning of next spring season when he will be returning to continue his work as a kitchen boy/assistant cook with us. Several of the other Sherpas are still requiring physical therapy to help them recover from their injuries and we are in the process of arranging treatment for them.
I also visited the family of another deceased Sherpa whose surviving wife, Yanji, has relocated to Kathmandu with her three children, two of whom are boarding at a Tibetan school in Kathmandu while her youngest child (4) is going to day school there. Prior to this, the family had never been to Kathmandu so it must be a huge culture shock to them to go from a remote village to the cacophony of sensory overload that this city elicits. They have been staying with relatives, but even the most sympathetic relatives feel the impact of an additional two people living in the house and four on weekends. We decided to fund the rental costs for a one room apartment for her and her young daughter so they could have a sense of independence. The SFF has been able to provide this family the opportunity to move forward but the need to provide assistance will continue for quite some time until the children have completed their educations.
I felt it would be advantageous for the wives our deceased Sherpas to have some employment so I paid a visit to an old friend who is now a senior manager at Sherpa Adventure Wear to ask a big favour. Ang Phurba Sherpa agreed to take on those who are interested and able, as trainees at Sherpa Adventure Wear so they can learn a trade. In addition to earning their own income, they would have the social interaction and sense of worth that employment can provide. This opportunity is going to be available for more of our Sherpa families in the future.
The other effects of the earthquake impacted heavily on our Sherpa team with several of them losing their houses completely, while others had lesser damage. To this end we paid out $28,000 between 27 Sherpas with a graded scale of payment relative to the extent of the damage they suffered. For those whose houses were completely destroyed, this amounted to approximately 20% -25% of the rebuild cost so they are still in need of further funds to complete the rebuilds. In some areas the government did make payments for rebuilding, but the $100-$220 they gave is in no way going to cover the $8000-$12,000 a moderate house would cost to build.
So - where to from here?
Our main focus is to ensure the ongoing education of the children along with the well-being of their mothers and we will continue to pursue this through our own contributions and with fundraising. One kind soul has put arrangements in place to sponsor one of the families until the children have completed their educations and I hope to take him to see the family in Nepal next year. If you would be interested in supporting a family, or even a single child, we would happily set this up. We would arrange regular feedback from the student and the school and it is possible you could visit them periodically through their developmental years as they progress through school. Every little bit helps these families move forward. Without us many of them have little hope so it is important at this time that we do not forget that our support will be needed for many years to come.
We will continue to provide information as it comes to hand and next year we can report of the results of those children who have been benefiting from your generosity for the year. I will be returning to Nepal next March and will be visiting the families while I am there so I will report back afterwards.
UPDATE: AUGUST 2015
Dear supporter of the Sherpa Future Fund,
I am sending you an update of the work that has been done as a result of your support to assist the families of the victims of the avalanches on Everest in 2014 and 2015. We are happy to report good progress and it has been comforting to see the children in good schools and learning for a brighter future.
Your generosity has enabled 11 children to further their education, most of whom are at schools in Kathmandu. Contributions from the Sherpa Future Fund have been made to providing support for the poorest people in the village of Khumjung, some of whom have never had access to money. AC Climbing Sirdar, Sange Dorje Sherpa, has delivered cash and food to these people. We are also in the process of arranging support for the Nuns at the Nunnery in Deboche, which we hope we can continue on an ongoing basis.
Many of our Sherpa staff are in the process of, or have recently completed, repairs to their homes that were damaged in the earthquake and the Sherpa Future Fund is contributing to assist them with the associated costs.
I am traveling this weekend to Nepal to run our first expedition since the earthquakes (to Mount Manaslu) and our staff in Nepal are very motivated to see tourism return to their country after the destructive seismic events earlier in the year. This also provides an opportunity to meet with the affected families and to see how the students are progressing in the schools and I will report back on completion of the expedition in October.
Guy Cotter Director, Adventure Consultants