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Sir Edmund Hillary and the Himalayan Trust

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 Sir Edmund Hillary (1919 - 2008)

New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary was part of the first team (alongside Tenzing Norgay) to stand atop Mt Everest in 1953. But in many ways, Sir Edmund Hillary’s greatest legacy is not his ascent of the world’s highest mountain, but his humanitarian work for the Sherpa people of the Khumbu region and other areas in Nepal.

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

The Himalayan Trust

In the years following his ascent Hillary devoted much of his life to improving the living standards of the Sherpas and preserving their culture through the Himalayan Trust, which he established in 1960. One of the prime projects of the Trust from the outset, has been to provide greater opportunities for education. The first school was built by the Trust in 1960 and 26 more schools have been built so far! Ongoing support is provided to these schools in the form of textbooks, stationery, teacher training, scholarships, adult classes and women's literacy classes.

Another key area that the Trust focuses on is to improve health services in the Mt Everest region and promote a preventative health programme. One of the hospitals that has been built and is now managed by the Trust is in the small Sherpa village of Kunde, just north of Namche Bazaar, where we spend a day acclimatising in on our Everest Base Camp trek. Between 1966 and 2001, the hospital was staffed by volunteer doctors from New Zealand and Canada, but since 2002 the hospital has been able to operate more independently with local doctors and health workers. One of the best things, we think, is that this hospital and others like it are able to offer free, good quality health care to local Nepalis.

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Protecting and rejuvenating the environment is a third strand to the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust. This is one area that we take a particularly keen interest in across all of our destinations. We understand that being able to offer hiking trips in Nepal, in such an awe inspiring, remote and fragile landscape, is a huge privilege. Shortly after Hillary's triumph on Mt Everest, tourism to the region really took off. This led to an immense pressure on local resources, such as the forest, with firewood being in much greater demand. Luckily, in 1976 the government established Sagarmatha National Park in order to protect an incredible part of this area. Sagarmatha National Park encompasses the southern half of Mt Everest so the park's elevation ranges from 2,845 mtrs (9,334 ft) right up to the summit of Everest at 8,848 mtrs (29,029 ft)! With such a varied climatic nature that allows a wide variety of plant and animal species to flourish, the park was inscribed as a Natural World Heritage Site in 1979. The Himalayan Trust has been supporting this park with three nurseries established, producing some 100,000 local origin seedlings, as part of a reforestation scheme.

The fourth element that the Trust is heavily involved in is to preserve the local culture of the Sherpa people. Buddhist Monasteries, Chortens (pagodas) and Prayer wheels are all examples of projects that the Trust has helped to rebuild or improve. These places are all extremely important to local Sherpa people, not only for expressing their strong spiritual faith but they also play a role in cultural tourism, attracting many visitors to the area who further contribute to the economic development of the country.

In his will, Sir Ed wrote, "I declare that I have had a full life with much happiness and a share of sadness. I have little cause for complaint. If, however, some people in New Zealand feel I have made some contribution to the prestige of my country then they could best demonstrate this by continuing modest support to the Himalayan people I have worked with for so many years.

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Active Adventures Himalayas are proud to follow in the footsteps of our Kiwi-Nepali hero and donate part of every trip we run in Nepal to the Himalayan Trust. Read our blog to find out how we fundraised for the Himalayan Trust to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Hillary's first ascent of Everest. 

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