Sunday, May 8, 2011

Give More Than You Take

(written May 6, 2011)
I was told these very words from famous American climber Conrad Anker in 2005 when, during a very fortunate meeting, I expressed my desire to visit the Himalayas. These words have stuck with me and align perfectly with my Mom's life lesson of always leaving a place cleaner than when you found it. For this reason, I could think of nothing better than capping my successful ski expedition to Mera Peak with an equal amount of time spent volunteering in this amazing country.

I am in Kathmandu now and leave early tomorrow morning for the town of Tikot... I will take a "local minibus" (lord help me!) for 9 hours to Beni. I will spend the night there before taking another (and much shorter) bus ride the following day. From the end of the road, I will walk a full day to my home for the next 3 weeks: The town of Tikot.

Once there, I will stay with a local family and work at the local school 5.5 days per week. On my 1.5 free days/week, I can do smaller circuit treks to towns of Mohare and Khopra. All of which (Tikot included) have views of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri (both infamous 8,000+ peaks).

This area of Nepal has benefited from the Nepal wireless project, so I will not only be helping at a school that teaches grades 1 to 10, but also helping students and other locals use computers and the Internet... This means that, other than during the times of rolling blackouts, I will not only be helping with education, but also helping create sustainable, long-term revenue-generating opportunities for the people of Tikot (hopefully).

I will be back to Kathmandu on the 29th of May (give or take) where I will spend a day or 2 working with Tika - my guide from Mera Peak - to re-brand his company into a socially and environmentally responsible trekking and ski mountaineering business. Included in my efforts will be an aggressive awareness-building plan to bring more skiers to Nepal, as well as a more specific business development plan for him, complete with a new web site. His hope is to use business as a way to help clean up a notoriously dirty (and getting dirtier) trekking area to preserve its reputation and allure - which is in danger from excessive littering from Westerners and some guides taking advantage of locals. It will be a busy month :)

But think for a moment... What would it be like if businesses and people concentrated on giving more than taking (at least in terms of environmental sustainability)? What can your company give back? What can you give back?

After Nepal, my travels and volunteering will continue... I fly out of Nepal on June 1st for Singapore, which I will see for a day or two before going to Malaysia to help the International Division of the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life with an emerging Relay in the town of Melaka. I will be in Malaysia only a short while before visiting my brother Paul, and his industry leading sustainable wood manufacturing pant, in Indonesia on June 8th-ish.

If you have any thoughts on helping develop socially and environmentally responsible businesses abroad and at home, I would love to hear them!

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