From the Founder:
Yet again, we’ve been too busy to churn out newsletters. It has been an incredible year for Porters’ Progress in both Nepal and in America. We’ve become one of the leading partners for the International Labour Organization offices in Nepal, and we’ve mobilized our fundraising and awareness-raising resources Stateside.
Our child-labor and community development initiatives in Eastern Nepal have proven to be our most rewarding projects yet. We’ve seen the construction and revitalization of seven schools, the formation of 26 women’s micro savings groups, and the provision of 223 scholarships to poor children in some of the most remote and conflictaffected areas of the country. While other NGOs have been paralyzed by the growing conflict in Nepal, we have been able to mobilize porters to continue our growth as an organization and to increase our provision of services which porters and their families need now more than ever. It saddens all of us that we now must implement programs that directly deal with the psychological and physical trauma resulting from the growing insurgency in Nepal. An example of this is our landmine and unexploded ordinance education program for working children – which was the first of its sort in the country.
Our health and HIV/AIDS programs continue to reach thousands of porters each season, as do our long-running education and clothing lending initiatives. We’ve been blessed by the contributions of many talented and dedicated volunteers, and we’ve put together another film. To cope with the incredible growth of our programs in Nepal we have had to add a number of new staff members, including our talented new CEO – Ang Chokpa Sherpa.
In the coming months, we are looking to support a greater variety of programs and organizations across Nepal and are exploring the possibility of assisting the porter advocacy movement in Pakistan. Of course, we continue to rely upon the generosity of individuals who have been touched by our work or by the work of the porters we serve. We need your support to help ensure that we can continue to meet the changing needs of porters in their families in Nepal, and we thank you in advance for your generosity and support.
As Nepal continues to slide into greater uncertainty, it is important to again emphasize the virtue of going trekking and hiring porters. The main trekking routes remain safe for trekkers, and we would love to have you come visit our offices and/or volunteer in Lukla and Kathmandu!
Thanks again to everyone who has contributed to our work – we’ll see you on the trail soon!
Gratefully, Ben Ayers
Porters’ Progress News:
More Porter Deaths in the Khumbu: Preventable porter deaths along the trekking routes of Nepal show no sign of reduction, despite the downturn in tourism. The fall 2004 trekking season saw three confirmed porter deaths in the Everest Region, with rumors of many more. This spring also saw two confirmed deaths. One of those was 16 year old Binod Rai from the remote village of Cheskam in Eastern Nepal who died from complications resulting from Pulmonary Edema this past April. Binod had just passed ninth grade and was working for a trekking group during his school vacation. He was an only child, and it is unclear if insurance was provided to his family or not. Again, this serves as a reminder of how crucial our work in Nepal is.
Karma Film To Be Released Soon: Porters’ Progress has teamed up with Kemplemedia and a group of some of the best rock climbers in America to produce a new climbing film that highlights the plight of child porters in Lukla, Nepal. A group of five young American climbers came to the Everest region and pioneered bouldering routes in Lukla and the surrounding area with 5 child porters from Porters’ Progress. The final film – Karma: Hopes and Dreams in the Boulderfields of Nepal will be officially released at the end of the summer, and we will enter the film in the Banff Mountain Film Festival and other events across the world.
New Staffing in Nepal: We would like to welcome Ang Chokpa Sherpa into the Porters’ Progress family. Ang Chokpa is working as our new CEO in Nepal, and she will be primarily based in Kathmandu. A native of Lukla, Ang Chokpa is the first female Sherpa to receive her Masters’ Degree (in Sociology, with another degree in Rural Development pending). She has extensive work experience with the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee in the Everest region, and has been a long time friend of Porters’ Progress. We have also brought Vijaya Adhikari on board to manage the financial end of the organization. Vijaya is a talented young man, and we’re thrilled to have him on the team.
ILO Action Program Running Smoothly: Our action program on the elimination of child labor that was launched last September is well underway. The International Labour Organization has listed Porters’ Progress as one of the best-run programs in Nepal. Our non-formal education, recreation, and safety programs have reached thousands of child porters in Lukla, and our community development programs in the remote Khotang district have exceeded our expectations despite the great political instability sweeping the area. A sampling of our success – to date, we have rebuilt and reconstructed 7 rural schools, founded 25 female microfinance groups with nearly 500 members, provided scholarship to 223 poor children in porter communities, run daily English language classes for child porters in Lukla, and hosted a 3-day intensive first aid training course for child porters.
Porter Poetry: Featured Poem
Waiting for Peace
Our happiness is dying,
peace is more important now than ever.
The dark clouds of war
have moved overhead.
Our hearts have waited for peace,
and we now face death without it.
Explain to us, politicians –
why have the sun and moon fled in fear?
It is like hoping for springtime
with all the leaves already fallen.
What remains now?
Everything is ashes.
After so much blood and so many tears,
what have we gained from violence and abductions?
The poor have seen in our mirrors
all of the deception in the name of peace.
Please, don’t ask me about my dreams.
My hope for feeding my family has been splintered.
We never asked for too much –
just to have gruel to eat, and to find loads to carry.
Bishnu Aryal (translation by Ben Ayers)
This poem addresses the growing frustration among porters and other working-class Nepali families over the growing civil conflict in Nepal. The civil war has now claimed over 10,000 people and human rights abuses are rampant across the country. Nepal has the dubious distinction of topping the list for the highest number of ‘disappearances’ of any country on Earth. Nepal needs to hear voices from across the world advocating peace and a quick diplomatic solution to the conflict – for information regarding how your voice can be heard, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.freenepal.org
Thank You! We are deeply grateful for the contributions of the following organizations and individuals:
THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION
THE MOUNTAIN INSTITUTE
KINA SOCIAL VENTURES
THE COTTONWOOD FOUNDATION
UNICEF, NEPAL COUNTRY OFFICE
GENEVA INTERNATIONAL CENTRE
FOR HUMANITARIAN DEMINING
COMMUNITY WELFARE CENTRE, NEPAL
THE ANTENNA FOUNDATION, NEPAL
THE INTERNATIONAL PORTER PROTECTION GROUP
EUREKA! TENTS (AN EVEREST SUPPORTER!)
CRAZY CREEK CHAIRS
THE BANISTER FAMILY
PORTERS’ PROGRESS TREK HIGHLIGHTS:
This past October, a group of 27 friends — 21 Nepali staff and six trekkers — danced and laughed their way to Everest Base Camp and back as Ben Ayers led a twenty-day fundraising trek for Porters’ Progress. This adventure pioneered a new model for porter treatment on treks in Nepal where the entire trekking staff – and especially the porters – were integrated into every element of the trek. The evenings were spent sharing songs, poems, and stories between the trekkers and the staff, and the trekkers were exposed to a side of Nepali life and culture that is rarely uncovered on conventional treks. It was a once in a lifetime experience for everyone involved…
And we’re going to repeat it! In the spring of 06, Ben Ayers will lead another trek to Everest Base Camp with the same intention of simultaneously raising funds for PP, setting an example for the industry to follow, and ensuring that everyone has an unforgettable experience.
WHAT THE TREKKERS HAD TO SAY:
“Day after day we walked, talked and laughed. We shared jokes and songs in both Nepali and English, and with Ben as enthusiastic translator we were able to learn about the lives of our new friends and likewise. We spent the evenings playing Nepali games and dancing to the beats of our own porter band which was in marked contrast to the other trek groups around us who seemed to be segregated from their Nepali staff.” – Kate Gibbons, Wales, UK.
“The Porters’ Progress trek was a life-changing experience for me. Never again will Nepal be just a story told by vintage climbers, or a magical setting for a “Lost Horizons” novel, or a pretty calendar picture. It became real to me, populated by real people with real and compelling political, social, and medical issues—who welcomed us as friends and made us part of the place and the people forever.” Judy Marden, Maine, USA
“ This was simply the best and most enjoyable holiday I have ever had.” Chris Gibbons, Wales, UK
“At one point I counted 34 people in a small kitchen tent. The music was from a drum, tambourine, and hand-made bamboo flute. The songs were all in Nepali and for the most part described the beauty of the people, the land, and the importance of family. The dancers were us… The porters, though they live half way around the world and don’t speak my language taught me that the simplest gesture; like a smile or an outstretched hand in invitation to dance were part of a universal language. None of them had a formal education or any worldly goods to speak of yet they taught me the real value of things; like a shared song or laughter in the middle of a cold snowy night.” Kathy Gang, Wisconsin, USA