After several trips to Nepal in the late 1990’s and intense interactions with the Sherpa people of the Solu Khumbu or Everest region, a passion for the country and it’s people was ignited in Sally Hunsdorfer and thus The Himalayan Project was born with the mission to help raise critical support towards the preservation of the cultural traditions of the indigenous people of the Himalayas through education, community development and social outreach.
Over the past 15 years THP has traveled to Nepal every year for several months, leading fund raising treks and delivering fleece jackets, hygiene and school supplies to extremely remote areas of Nepal. All of these supplies have been collected from American school children throughout New England after an interactive program called “A Day in the Life of a Nepali Child” which focuses on nurturing awareness and compassion for the plight and beauty of the Nepali culture. Additionally, THP has worked in collaboration with community leaders on building projects for communities in isolated, mountainous areas. For the past several years, THP’s primary focus has been on a school in the village of Chaurikharka in the Mt. Everest region. Founded initially by Sir Edmund Hillary after his successful ascent on Mt Everest in 1953, the school was originally meant to service 30 village children. Now, 63 years later, the school has grown to 400 students, many of whom walk 3-4 hours each way to school every day to attend classes. This ever increasing student population desperately needed an expanded infrastructure. THP and the village of Chaurikharka have worked tirelessly to build a school hall, a greenhouse that can provide fresh vegetables for the Hostel students, classrooms to accommodate the addition of Grades 11 and 12, a library replete with Nepali, Tibetan and English books and a complete renovation of the school cafeteria. Perhaps most importantly, THP has established a scholarship program for those students whose parents cannot afford the $350 annual expense. Education in Nepal is NOT a birthright.
THP has also funded the construction of a Sherpa Cultural Center where the community is committed to creating an atmosphere that honors and values the Sherpa heritage, where the environment is honored and where teachers understand that each student has a vast and unique potential. The Center will nurture a spirit of self confidence, social responsibility, environmental awareness and cultural pride.
In the spring of 2015, two earthquakes devastated Nepal. 8000 people died and millions were left homeless. In the Mount Everest region, the second earthquake demolished what was left standing after the first quake. THP swung into action and within two months had raised enough relief aid to enable the entire village of 58 homes to be rebuilt before the winter set in. Makeshift classrooms at the school were cobbled together from the refuse left after the earthquake. “Build Back Better” became the rallying cry from a group of young, energetic villagers who are forging ahead with plans for rebuilding the school and with a Master Plan in place that incorporates earthquake proof techniques and materials, THP is committed to raising the funds needed. THP is excited by the initiative of the local people, showing a resilience and an optimism that is quite unrivaled. Young people from the local area will be offered the opportunity to work and learn alongside skilled tradespeople and receive training in seismic-resistant building techniques. This on-site vocational training will help address the problems of labor shortages and bring much needed new skills and employment to the region. Since the school in Chaurikharka is the ONLY school in the Mt Everest region to provide a full education through Grade 12, this is a critical and most important project to embark on. Education means a future that gives everyone hope. The Himalayan Project is working to empower a population that is now grabbing the chance to move forward in a sustainable way that will define a healthy, integrated and engaged community.