Sherpa couple at 'home' in NZ

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:25 28/05/2014
Max Martin,
KATE DAVIDSON
LONG-TIME LINKS: New Zealand’s first volunteer to the Kunde region in Nepal, Diane McKinnon, of Nelson, left, with recent volunteer Karen Banks from Nayland College and Sherpa visitors Jangmoo and Lakpa Sherpa.

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Sherpa are not porters, as many people think - they are an ethnic group of Nepal, a visiting Sherpa says.

Lakpa T Sherpa and his wife, Dr Jangmoo Sherpa, are visiting New Zealand on behalf of Sir Edmund Hillary's Himalayan Trust. The trust has worked in the Himalayas since Hillary first climbed the world's highest peak with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

The couple, who spoke to Nayland College students this week, are a development power couple helping their country find its feet. She is a doctor in public health and he is running development projects.

After living in Sydney and studying for the last year, the couple was missing the high peaks of Nepal. But flying into New Zealand over the snowy Southern Alps they felt as though they had come to their second home.

"It's really interesting. It is similar to our country with the landscapes. It's been nice and we are enjoying our stay and meeting all the lovely people here," said Jangmoo.

A highlight was meeting Kiwis who had volunteered in Nepal in the 60s before the two were born, including trust board member Diane McKinnon.

Hearing their stories and seeing their photos had been fantastic, they said.

"We have a connection with this country, the people of this country," said Lakpa.

The couple said the loss of Sherpa lives on Mt Everest earlier this year had been tragic, but the closure of the mountain was bringing necessary attention to the reality of the how Sherpas were being treated, with the commercialisation of climbing the world's highest peak. They did not believe closing the mountain would have a dramatic affect on the economy where they were based in Lukla, as trekking made up a big part of the tourist economy there.

Support from international non-government organisations, such as the Himalayan Trust, had helped develop parts of Nepal which had been not always been reached by the government.

A civil war that ended in 2006 and the transition from a monarchy to full democracy had disrupted progress.

But, today the people of Nepal were empowered and educated, running their own projects and companies that created jobs, and provided education.

"Everything is done through education," said Lakpa.

Jangmoo said there were still areas in Nepal that remained untouched and needed help. She said the Himalayan Trust was looking to expand into those areas to reach other ethnic groups.

"Please continue your contributions. That would be a great support for us," she said.

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They also invited Kiwis to visit Nepal and see for themselves the country's natural beauty.

Nayland College mathematics teacher Karen Barks, who hosted the couple at the school, spent five weeks in Nepal earlier this year.

She worked with a teachers' training programme run by the Himalayan Trust and was impressed with what she saw.

Nayland College year 13 student Isabel Heise said it was an informative talk and she learned a lot about Nepal.

"I liked to see how they live and how they can help themselves," she said.

- The Nelson Mail

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