We are a truly grassroots organization that is run and administered entirely by Nepali porters. Porters’ Progress, Nepal seeks to be a new model for development in Nepal by concentrating upon the strength and capability of porters as a means of creating sustainable change.
Education and Empowerment
Porters’ Progress offers free daily language classes to porters from our offices in Kathmandu and Lukla. These classes focus on simple language lessons that allow porters to approach foreigners for assistance during an emergency, negotiate wages, get work at the trailhead and engage in basic conversation. These classes are typically run by foreign volunteers. To date, we have given thousands of classes in six different languages.
Weekly trainings are also given on topics relevant to the issues porters face on the trail and at home, such as altitude sickness prevention, environmental awareness, basic health and hygiene, and community building.
All of our programs are determined and evaluated by porters themselves. We run frequent ‘empowerment meetings’ for porters where we encourage them to focus upon the positive aspects of their lives and livelihoods, and to determine their own means of bringing about change.
Lighter Futures: Child Portering
In coordination with the International Labour Organization and World Education, Porters’ Progress is helping to reduce the number of rural children working in the portering trade. Child porters have little opportunity to study, and are particularly vulnerable to psychological and physical development issues. Also, mobile child porters are becoming particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection, as well as becoming victims of the growing insurgency in Nepal.
This initiative combines aggressive child-to-child advocacy and awareness programs with a myriad of formal and non-formal educational opportunities for child porters. It encompasses a wide variety of innovative programs for both child and adult porters including a Micro Health Insurance Program for adult porters, and mobile IT-based learning opportunities for child porters.
Initially, the project will focus upon community development and livelihood improvement in the remote Khotang District of Eastern Nepal, and on-the-trail advocacy for children working on the main trade routes of Eastern Nepal. We expect our work in this area to expand as porters gain more experience leading the program.
Poetry, Artwork and Cottage Industry
Porters are very talented folk artisans and the goods they construct for daily use have great appeal to foreign visitors as souvenirs. Accordingly, we have begun selling porter-made handicrafts such as walking sticks, miniature baskets and ploughs, watercolor paintings, etc. to tourists. This program provides porters with a means of generating income during the off-seasons and between treks.
A fortunate by-product of this project has been a great increase in unity among the porter community in Lukla. Often, when work is unavailable, porters spend their days in groups at the office discussing their work, sharing songs of solidarity, and swapping jokes as they construct goods for this program.
POETRY AND ARTWORK
Porters know the value of expression. The meter of human footsteps and glacial rivers can be heard in their speech, their songs, and their poetry. Porters’ Progress has been able to collect, translate, and publish a great number of poems written by porters of all ages from across Nepal.
We have also provided porters with visual art and sculpture training, and our porter artists have had their work featured in international publications such as the American Alpine Club Newsletter.
HIV/AIDS is one of the greatest threats facing Nepal today. The UN estimates that AIDS will be the leading cause of death among young adults within 10 years. The mobility of porters makes them particularly vulnerable to the spread of the disease. In response to this, Porters’ Progress has started an aggressive HIV/AIDS prevention campaign. We are currently offering monthly awareness workshops, free condom distribution, and employing porters as peer educators. By being proactive, open, and committed to addressing HIV/AIDS before it becomes an epidemic, we are transforming porters into vehicles of change.