2014 Avalanche Scholarship

May, 2014

The Maya Sherpa Project announces its Mt. Everest Scholarship Fund

On April 18, 2014, the Sherpa community suffered severe loss of lives in an avalanche on Mt. Everest. As the climbing season was at its peak, there were many climbers in base camp preparing for a later summit attempt. Meanwhile, Sherpa guides were busy preparing the upper camps and setting ropes for their clients, when the avalanche struck just above the ice fall on the Khumbu Glacier. In all 17 died and many others were injured, resulting in the deadliest day on Everest.

The world responded generously with donations of aid and we, too, collected contributions for the Sherpa families affected by this tragedy. Our decision was to focus the donations on helping the children of the avalanche victims, especially for their future schooling. Our thank you letters conveyed the following thoughts:

“The Sherpa culture holds education in high regard; many of the men have been working these difficult mountaineering jobs specifically to be able to put their children in school. With your thoughtful gift, and that of many others, we will be able to offer educational opportunities for the Sherpa children who lost a father, brother or other family wage-earner in the recent avalanche – in the months, perhaps even years to come!”

“With our local MSP network in Nepal, we will soon get to know these families, and assess their needs for keeping their children in school, offering assistance with tuition, uniforms, books and other supplies. We know that there are many other fundraising projects for the Sherpas, but we will make sure we are also available to those who might otherwise be overlooked.”

This work is a continuation of our 4 year-old non-profit organization. To quote our Board President, Dawa Sherpa:

“My vision for the MSP is to help bring basic education and medical care to my fellow Sherpas, in order that they can experience a life of greater well-being, while still maintaining the richness of the culture.”

Our fundraising efforts had collected $14,000. While this was a substantial amount for an organization of our size, it was decided that we would join forces with others who were also targeting funds for education, in order that efforts not be duplicated. After thorough research, we finally selected the Juniper Fund, a Seattle-based organization, as the overseer of our account, and whose mission in the Nepal is to “support local mountain workers and their families and communities.” In particular the Juniper Fund had established a “widow’s relief” fund, and are personally familiar with the climbing support community in Nepal.

They had also become a clearing house not only for our efforts, but for those of other organizations after the Everest Avalanche. In particular, fundraising from the American Himalayan Foundation was awarded to the Juniper Fund, earmarked for the continuing education of the children.

The JF Director, David Morton, proposed that our MSP funds be designated for the higher education needs of the same children in the years to come. It will be set aside in a special account, and distributed as the older ones complete their 12th year. If they have done well and show a commitment to continue, the MSP funds will be the resource for that. This will be managed and oversight completed by the manager of all the JF educational programs.

A discussion with David was held about the pitfalls of what “higher education” looks like in Nepal and the lack of jobs for those who do get some.  He agreed and said that the JF would only consider private schools (not the public Tribhuvan University) that are more vocational in nature.  These schools offer degrees in health and engineering and he thinks that Nepal is now progressing vocationally and economically to need a trained workforce in the coming years.

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