Soon after the Khumjung School was built in 1961, it became apparent that the Sherpa people in the Dudh Kosi valley wanted and needed health and educational facilities in many villages. Sir Ed was kept busy fundraising and organising the construction of another two schools, a piped water supply for Khunde and Khumjung, and establishing a medical clinic for a 1963 expedition. The Himalayan Trust was established by Sir Ed, his first wife Louise and friends in 1964, to aid with fundraising efforts for the various projects being requested by the people of Solukhumbu.
In almost every year that followed, Sir Ed worked out a list of projects with the Sherpa communities, and a crew of willing workers arrived in Solukhumbu to complete the task with the local people. The expeditions usually included climbing a mountain or two as a reward for the climbers in the building parties. With so much equipment and building materials heading up the valley, better access became a priority. So the Trust added Lukla Airport and the construction of several critical bridges to their projects.
Although education was the initial focus of Sir Ed’s work, a hospital for the region was also much needed. The team worked relentlessly to fundraise enough money to finally build a hospital in Khunde in 1966. Many of the funds came due to the backing of the Lions Clubs of New Zealand, as well as Sir Ed’s faithful sponsors Sears, Roebuck and Co and World Book Encyclopaedia. The hospital and its team of locals and volunteer doctors had an immediate impact on some serious health problems in the area such as tuberculosis and iodine deficiency.
There are now a total of 26 schools in the Khumbu set up by the Himalayan Trust. Despite the nationalisation of all schools in Nepal in 1975, the Trust has remained a guardian for the schools, regularly providing funds for building work, exercise books, materials and stationery as well as providing teacher training, student scholarships and monitoring progress.
Sir Edmund Hillary and the Himalayan Trust were also instrumental in the establishment of the Sagarmatha National Park (SNP) and the Sagarmatha National Park Visitor Centre. In the mid 1980s, the Trust set up a forestry program of 3 nurseries which annually produce around 100,000 seedlings. Over a million trees have now been planted as part of the reforestation program. The National Park Head Warden position was previously held by Mr Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa and Mr Nima Wongchu Sherpa, both ex-students of Khumjung School and scholarship recipients.
Sir Edmund Hillary was always keen to ensure the day-to-day management of all these programs was eventually handed over to qualified people in Khumbu and Nepal. The management of the Trusts\' activities in Nepal is now handled by the Sherpa Advisory Committee. Mr Ang Rita Sherpa is currently the Executive Officer of the Himalayan Trust. He was in the first group of students at the school opening in 1961 and received the one of the first Himalayan Trust Scholarship to further his education outside Khumjung.
The Himalayan Trust has excellent support worldwide. As well as many contributions from New Zealand, it also has associated foundations in the UK, Canada, the USA and Germany. All of these associations work closely with Nepal to provide continuing support. Many other agencies have also worked closely with the Himalayan Trust to help with funds and projects, including the Hillary Foundation New Zealand, Belgium Friends, and the Swiss School of Engineering.
Contribution to School and Community
Over the last 50 years The Himalayan Trust has provided expertise, funds, advice and support for the following projects in Solukhumbu region: education facilities, health services, reforestation, building airports, trail improvement, bridges, water supplies, and the preservation of local cultural monuments.
Khumjung School is described by the Secretary of the Himalayan Trust in the UK as \'the jewel in Sir Edmund Hillary\'s crown\', continuing to provide high-quality education and community service today. As the only high school in the Khumbu region, it is an important part of the wider community, and the Himalayan Trusts’ support is critical to its success. The teacher training program has been particularly beneficial for the school, and Khumjung School is very grateful to Mr Jim Strang of New Zealand for his years of dedicated service.
While Khumjung School teaches 350 children, some of the Trust schools teach as few as 19. However this merely demonstrates the commitment of the Trust and the Sherpa people to education. Even if only 19 children can be schooled in a village, then a school will be built there and those children will be given the opportunity to have a future.
The hospital is now well established and efficiently run by the Chief Medical Officer Dr Kami Temba Sherpa from Thami (a former pupil of Khumjung School). The hospital has good facilities and regularly treats a variety of conditions, assisting both people in the community and trekkers and tourists. There is also an inpatient facility at the hospital. Between this hospital, a second District Hospital in Phaphlu and five village sub-health posts, the Trust has managed to set up and provide health care for a community of around 8,000-10,000 people. This is the best medical coverage in rural Nepal.
The efficiency and skill of the practitioners have been enhanced over the years by the volunteering of many New Zealand and Canadian doctors, who have volunteered to help improve the community\'s medical understanding in important areas such as immunisation and contraception. It is these things that have had the biggest impact on improving the standard of living in the Khumbu.
It is simply impossible to quantify the effect of Sir Edmund Hillary and the Himalayan Trust in this region, or the gratitude of the Sherpa people to Bada Sahib for the investment he made in their future and the interest he took in their fate all those years ago. Sir Edmund Hillary sadly passed away early in 2008, but despite this his legacy lives on through the Sherpa people, through every child, teenager and adult in Solukhumbu who can now read and write, and through all those whose lives he touched.
As Khumjung School approaches its 50th anniversary, the Khumbu region will remember Sir Edmund Hillary and will continue to be deeply thankful for the leadership, guidance, effort and energy of the Trust and its founder.
Himalayan Trust (Nepal/New Zealand), est 1963
Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation (Canada), est 1973
The Hillary Foundation (USA), est 1975
The American Himalayan Foundation, est 1981
Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust (UK), est 1989
Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation (Germany), est 1991