Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers

by The Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Increase safety and incomes for Nepal climbers
Kids read and enjoy!
Kids read and enjoy!

We looked around at each other nervously, wondering "Have we done a good thing or not?"

Fifty kids, ages 1-17 were feverishly playing with wooden trains, pop-up books that look like bouquets of real-life splendor, magazines published just for kids, and electronic word puzzles that sing the alphabet in rhythm. It was a cacophony of excitement, curiosity, and pure learning pleasure, a free-play session in a high altitude library set up to bring pleasure to children through the written word.

The Khumjung School Magic Yeti Library was established less than a year ago and it's evident that the enormous effort - from dusty bookshelves in family homes in the USA to a busy one - room library in the largest Sherpa village in the Everest region -- has paid off. The children are no longer afraid to take books off the shelves and, in fact, the biggest challenge for the new librarian, Pasang Doma Sherpa, is that the kids tend to put books back on any shelf they can find, leaving a confused jumble of unorganized, mis-shelved books in their wake.

"This is a good sign," we try to convince Pasang Doma. Improperly shelved books shows us the kids are actually using them. This is a start, for promoting literacy.

For the better part of 10 days, volunteer Stephanie Graham, and I sat in the bitter cold January confines of Sherpa homes, cataloguing 10 yak loads (700 lbs) of books and then shelving them in the library with the help of Pasang Doma and volunteer students from Khumjung. We could only stand about 3 hours at a time in the library, as the temperatures were well below freezing. We understood, only later, why we got strange looks when we wanted the floor mopped up. It created a slippery ice-rink effect atop the newly laid linoleum.

This is the time of year when the school is closed (January and part of February) due to the unbearable cold, providing kids and families a chance to find warmth in Kathmandu or by their fires. We thought we could handle the cold, but I admit it got the best of us, ("This is colder than I felt in Antarctica!") and we consumed countless cups of hot tea to keep our cores warm. Electricity was brought in for the first time to the library and a small heater made the work go a little faster as the students huddled around, filling out catalogue cards.

Finally, the books were all shelved and a new reference section and small children's interactive toy area was complete. We invited the community's smallest children to come and see their new library (click here to see the video). I don't think I've ever seen such excited faces - learning how a wooden train can glide across wooden tracks, plunking out Rasampiri, a Nepali folk song, on a small glockenspiel, and opening up a world of pictures, characters, and ideas within the hundreds of books in the tiny Magic Yeti library.

Our future plans? We'll continue to augment and supply the Khumjung library with the best books we can provide. Next year, duplicate books and excess supplies will be carried up to the village of Phortse, our next location for a Magic Yeti Library. Here, children go to school until 4th and 5th grade at which point they go to Khumjung for higher education. A community library space exists in Phortse now, but there are few, if any, books. We plan to bring books up, build new shelves, paint the library, and finally shelve the books in the early spring of 2009. Any volunteers? Fill out our volunteer questionnaire here.

Liesl Clark -Director Magic Yeti Libraries

A very special thanks to our Sherpa Student volunteers: Lhama Phuti Sherpa (Class 6), Nima Lhamu Sherpa (Class 7), Ang Phuti Sherpa (Class 7), Dawa Passang Sherpa (Class 8), Nawang Fingo Sherpa (Class 8), Gourag Mangar (Class 7), Bumeka Mangar (Class 5)

This MYL Library is in the village of Khumjung, Nepal
This MYL Library is in the village of Khumjung, Nepal
LIesl, Phoebe and Mahendra at the opening MYL  ceremony
LIesl, Phoebe and Mahendra at the opening MYL ceremony

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Greetings,

The new issue of the online magazine EPIC features the Khumbu Climbing School and Magic Yeti Library.

it includes stories, photos, and a podcast with Conrad Anker and Jennifer Lowe-Anker Thanks to everyone for your support and please email us if you have any questions!

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The Magic Yeti Libraries are about to become a reality, thanks to the benefit of having time on our hands while in Nepal, many books (which are still in transit), Phoebe Coburn as our tireless partner on the ground in the States, and some funding from our friends, colleagues, and family.

Pete (Athans), my husband, the kids (Finn (3) and Cleo (1) and I have just returned to Kathmandu from 3 weeks in Khumbu, living in the village of Kunde (12,600 ft) while searching for the perfect place for the first Magic Yeti Library. Hands down, the best existing space is at the Khumjung School, established by Sir Edmund Hillary, for the Sherpas of Khumbu, in 1963. Khumjung/Kunde is home to the largest Sherpa population in Khumbu, and where a once top-notch school is now struggling to attract Sherpa kids for enrollment, as many families are now sending their children to school in Kathmandu. The headmaster, Mahendra Kathet, has an uphill battle maintaining the high standards of the original Khumjung School as the school is now government funded and resources for the kids are quite slim.

We met with Mahendra on a cold and windy day in Khumbu, all the teachers in down jackets, kids wrapped in scarves while studying in freezer-like classrooms. Even with a space heater, the cinder-block walls seem to suck the heat out of the room.

Mahendra has been headmaster of the school for 9 years and a teacher there for 30 years. I was surprised to learn this, as Mahendra looks quite young. According to 2006 records, the school has 374 students, 95% Sherpa and 5% from other ethnic groups (mostly Rai and Tamang). I explained our mission to Mahendra, to find a library space for English and Nepali children’s books that would be available not only to the students, but to the whole community, and Mahendra immediately understood what we were looking for. He said, “ We need books, mostly for teaching in the classroom, and have few books that the students are interested in in our library.” I was intrigued to see what books kids might NOT be interested in.

The next day, we returned to see inside the library. Mahendra let us into the locked building and we found it to be simply a room with shelves on the wall: 1960s textbooks were mixed in with modern-day board books for pre-schoolers. Nepali and English texts were commingled in places like one big twisted alphabet soup combined with years of dirt, dust, and benign neglect. This library has books, but many of them are the school's own publication that they use to sell to trekkers interested in supporting the school. I saw Dr. Seuss books with spines ripped loose, adult English dime store romances along with non-fiction informational manuals. If I were a kid entering this library, I'd be overwhelmed, confused, and disinterested in books as a result.

The good news is that the Khumjung School’s library is in a newly constructed building (unheated and without electricity). There are shelves there, even some sky lights, and with a little effort, we can turn the space into a bona-fide library, combining the school's existing collection (minus the 60's textbooks – there was even a complete set of the 1962 World Book Encyclopedia ) with ours, getting some present-day magazines committed (hey, that would be a nice contribution, a subscription to several great magazines). We'll need about 5 days of gutting, cleaning, painting, ordering some benches and tables to be made, a heater to be purchased and carried up by porter, and then an opening celebration for the community to learn what the library can do for them. Mahendra promises that the library would be available to the entire community and open during school hours.

Our work is cut out for us, as we need to catalogue all of Mahendra's books and ours, color code each into our 4 color system geared toward reading levels, and then decorate practically. So, it seems the Magic Yeti Library may actually come into being and our hope is that we can do this in other high Himalayan communities, setting up Children's libraries while working in conjunction with schools and communities. The hitch is that the community must have the space available for our books and funding.

Many thanks to Room to Read, of Nepal, for donating English-Nepali Children’s books, and for their offer to train a librarian in library science skills.

Our target date for the work party will be mid April, at which point we hope most of our books have arrived by post, and then porter or yak, up to the school. Anyone interested in helping us, hands-on, with the library work should contact me at: lclark@mos.com.np

Happy Losar!

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Kathmandu, Nepal was a calmer place this January 2007 with the newly reformed government in place. We met with NMA president, Ang Tsering Sherpa and officials to discuss plans for the ongoing Khumbu Climbing School. We also had the privilege of meeting with Elizabeth Hawley, famed historian of Kathmandu who gave a verbal endorsement.

The village of Phortse, Nepal welcomed the 2007 Khumbu Climbing School for a fourth consecutive year from January 14th through the 25th. A total of 56 men and women from various regions of Nepal comprised to form 7 groups of beginning, intermediate and advanced students. Included in the group were five porters recommended by Porter's Progress for scholarship attendance.

We were happy to have seven Nepali climbing guides including Gelbu Sherpa and Pasang Llamu Sherpa of NMA join our 15 western guides for teaching technical climbing. All were under the direction of fourth year guide, Adam Knoff. Our English program was directed by Lila Bishop who engaged five Nepali instructors for an excellent course of beginning and advanced classes. We were lucky to have Dr. Luanne Freer who is known to the Khumbu region for her outstanding Everest ER (www.basecampmd.com) join us. She taught wilderness medical classes which included outdoor rescue scenarios. Phillip Henderson of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) joined Pete Athans to host a leadership seminar. At graduation, we awarded two scholarships to attend a NOLS course in the U.S. during the summer of 2007. Our school celebrated another successful year with no injuries.

The Khumbu Climbing School is an annual vocational training and instructional program for Nepali climbers. The school is designed to increase technical competency of Nepali people who work and climb in the mountain regions. Training is conducted on frozen waterfalls and rock outcrops near the village of Phortse.

Saturday January 20th offered us the opportunity to share Losar, the traditional celebration of New Year with the village of Phortse. We hosted a tea to honor 26 elders of the village and spent an enjoyable afternoon learning some history of the region and sharing some joy.

See the KCS 2006 Progress Report at http://www.alexlowe.org/06_kcs.shtml

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Things are shaping up for a very good crew in the Khumbu this year. We have Dr. Luanne Freer on board for our medical class. She is an ER doc here in Bozeman and has been running the Everest ER for the past four years at the southside base-camp. She has her own non-profit to do so. She is a dynamic person who loves the Khumbu and its people.

We have a great bunch of guides with Adam Knoff as the climbing class director- his fourth year with the KCS program and lots of guiding/teaching experience all over the world under his belt. Pete Athans (6 times to the top of Everest) is attending and he and Luanne will lead a seminar on Leadership Skills for our most experienced Everest climbers. It will be a roundtable discussion about scenarios that occur on Everest, what is the role of the Sherpa and how is it evolving? I am excited to hear what the Sherpa climbers have to say.

We will also include a business skills discussion about how they can advocate for better pay and work to start their own profitable guide companies. The English program is evolving with Lila Bishop joining us again as director and Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa as co-director. We will film a simple English video this year to distribute as we have the other how-to films with Karl Swingle again doing the filming. We will have six Sherpa or Nepali instructors for English classes this year and integrate lessons into the day at the climbs. Liesl Clark and her husband Pete Athans are also spearheading a project to establish a library at Kumjung, near Phortse. They have already collected books from herein the U.S. and will also get books in Nepal to launch a library for the people of the Khumbu including a childrens library. I see this as an opportunity to encourage adult ed and more opportunities to study English for all ages.

Warm Regards,

Jennifer Lowe Anker President Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation

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Organization Information

The Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation

Location: Bozeman, Montana - USA
Website:
The Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation
Conrad Anker
Project Leader:
Conrad Anker
Project Manager
Bozeman, MT United States

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