Eagle County residents ready to go to Nepal
Vail Daily News
The Sherpa Foundation’s mission is to provide humanitarian aid to Himalayan communities, while preserving the dignity and integrity of Sherpa and Himalayan culture.
The Sherpa Foundation is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization, and your donation is tax deductible.
Dr. Jon Kedrowski and Pemba Sherpa have created customized 15- and 21-day Everest Base Camp treks next fall, which will offer access to Sherpa homes, shrines and cultural and traditions exclusively through the Sherpa Foundation. To learn more about this and limited special trip package, email support@SherpaFoundation.org, or Kedrowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When a pair of massive earthquakes killed more than 8,000 people in Nepal last spring, Pemba Sherpa and so many other Nepal natives had to watch from here, halfway around the world.
Pemba wanted to go, but it wasn’t the time. Instead, he and others launched the Sherpa Foundation and raised money and support to rebuild some of Nepal’s most remote villages.
Monday is the time to go.
Pemba and two local volunteers, Barrett Langendoerfer and Tyler Wells, leave Monday for Nepal for two months. They’ll start in Pemba’s home village of Chelplung, located on the road to Mount Everest. Wells is with Alpenglo Media and will help chronicle the rebuilding effort.
The villages are in remote and inaccessible areas of Nepal. All supplies have to be packed in by humans or yaks. No outside assistance has been received in those rural mountains of Nepal, Pemba said.
“Those families with children and elders who had no one to count on for help and no connection to money are simply helpless,” Pemba said.
Opportunity is fleeting
The window of opportunity won’t be open long.
The earthquakes hammered the region as the monsoon season began its annual onslaught. The monsoons recently ended, but the brutal Himalayan winter is just weeks away.
Beyond the human devastation, the earthquakes leveled and damaged community buildings, schools and homes throughout the Khumbu Valley. Most buildings are uninhabitable, and the monsoon season delayed all reconstruction efforts.
Homes in the village have been identified as category A, B and C: A is a complete rebuild, B is a renovation and C is a repair job.
It will cost $12,000 to rebuild a house from the ground up; $7,000-$8,000 to renovate one and $2,000-$3,000 to repair one.
The object is to get as many families as possible into some kind of shelter for winter. For now, they’re living under tarps. It kept some of the torrential rain off during the monsoons, but it won’t keep winter at bay.
“The occupants are very impoverished with no opportunity to receive any outside funding,” Pemba said. “This project is a long-term commitment and will take many years to accomplish, yet we are very determined to accomplish our goal in helping the Solukhumbu region regain its stability.”
Excited to get started
As excited as Pemba is excited to get there and begin rebuilding, he’s more excited to return and show the people what they’re helping accomplish.
Pemba and others spent the summer telling the Sherpa Foundation’s story to just about anyone who would listen. Thousands did.
“Thank you everyone who made this possible,” Pemba said.
While the Sherpa Foundation is based in Edwards, Pemba spent his childhood in the region and is still connected to local contractors and suppliers in the villages.
Every dime given to the Sherpa Foundation goes to the people for whom it was intended. There’s no administrator — Pemba and others do everything at no cost. Local attorneys Rohn Robbins and Jenifer Kaplan pushed through the paperwork to establish it as a nonprofit in record time.
Donations rolled in from all over the region: Aspen, Summit County and the Vail Valley, of course, because the Sherpa Foundation is located here, but also from around the world — Germany, Ireland and the rest of Europe.
“We even had donations from our painting clients,” Pemba said.
The Chelplung village is remote, 45 minutes by air from Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. After that you’re in for a trek into the Everest region.
A couple locals are already helping. Emily Brown and Zachary Allen, of Vail, completed a 20-day Mt. Everest Base Camp trek through the Sherpa villages. After the trek, they spent a week rebuilding Sherpa homes in Chelplung Village, and another week teaching English to Sherpa kids at the Sir Edmund Hillary School in Chaurikharka. During their volunteer time they lived with a Sherpa family and learned Sherpa culture and tradition.
You can do something similar.
Beginning next fall, the Sherpa Foundation will lead tour groups that will have access to doors — people and places — that are usually not open to tourists, Pemba said. You’ll stay with Sherpa families and learn the culture.
Pemba grew up in abject poverty, in a remote village, the oldest of nine children. Four are still alive, although none were among the 8,000-plus who died in the Nepal earthquakes. Clothes were patched together; shoes were mostly theoretical and the winters got long.
Pemba was an Everest trekking guide for 20 years. Like everyone else, he started as a porter and worked his way up to guide. His clients came from the Vail Valley, Breckenridge, Boulder and other places where adventure is a lifestyle.
A German family put him in school to learn English, which made it possible for him to guide Americans and others from the English speaking world.
He was 16 when he first landed in the U.S. He said he was amazed at the relative luxury most Americans enjoy. Sometimes he still is.
Pemba owns and operates Sherpa Painting and has been in the local construction industry for years. He knows how to correctly build things, and that expertise is already on display in his home village.
He lost both parents while living in the U.S. and returned to Nepal to build a Stupa of Enlightenment in their honor, near their home and right on the trail to Everest. You can’t miss it. It’s 30 feet tall, and everyone who goes to Everest has to walk right past it.
It survived this year’s two earthquakes, and all the aftershocks, without so much as a hairline crack.
More than 1,500 people were at the blessing ceremony, including Zatul Rinpoche, a monk on his 12th reincarnation. The Dalai Llama is on his 14th.
Pemba is leaving his Sherpa Painting business in the hands of good friends while he’s gone for two months.
“I’m proud that this community gave me this trust to deliver this,” Pemba said.
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