Apa Sherpa Foundation launches this month in Utah
It is common for people to return to the schools they attended as youth to make a donation, but it isn't often that the student brings with him the son of the school's founder.
Apa Sherpa, a native of Nepal who now calls the Salt Lake Valley his home and who also happens to be the world record holder for summits of Mount Everest with 21, has invited Peter Hillary, son of famed mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, to a Jan. 25 fundraiser in Utah that will launch the Apa Sherpa Foundation.
The foundation, at least initially, will focus on raising funds for the Thame School in a village of the same name in the Himalayan highlands. It's where Apa was born and still has family and strong ties.
"It is simply marvelous that Apa is now helping renovate the Thame school my dad built in 1963 after being one of the first students to attend there," Hillary said from his home in New Zealand. "This is a great example of how a foreign foundation can help by building a school or hospital and then have the people who benefited come back and do it for their neighbors. It feels like everything has come full circle."
Apa it is common for Sherpa people to go by their first name as so many share the same last name recalls attending the Thame School as a youngster for two years, which at that time was all the school provided. After graduating from the Thame School, Apa spent six hours a day walking to and from a farther school as a 10-year-old.
But you could argue that all that walking prepared Apa for his long, successful and safe career as a high-altitude porter and, later, a guide to the top of the world.
This isn't the first time Apa and Hillary have teamed up. On May 10, 1990, they stood together more than 29,000 feet above sea level on top of Everest. It was the first summit of the world's tallest mountain for both men.
Apa and his wife, Yangjin, moved to Utah in 2006 to find a better education for their three children. In Nepal, their children were in schools in Kathmandu, far away from Apa and Yangjin for long periods. The family embraced the opportunity in the U.S. to be together every day and still focus on education.
After the move Apa returned to Nepal each spring to make his attempt on Everest and helped find ways to expand the Thame school to serve older children and prevent the long walks and long absences from family for students.
Apa made his last summit of Everest on May 11, 2011. He has become involved in efforts to remove the heinous amounts of trash from Mount Everest base camp and more recently in explaining to the people of the Himalayan highlands, and of the world, the threats of global climate change.
Back in Utah, and with the help of Jerry Mika, who shared a home with Apa's family for several years before they could afford their own, the humble world record holder worked hard to create the Apa Sherpa Foundation.
The dinner on Jan. 25, featuring Hillary and mountaineering author Broughton Coburn, is the culmination of that work.
"My goal is to help educate people, not only in Thame or Nepal but all over the world," Apa said. "Four years of school was not enough for me. Children need more time. We all need to work harder to help kids achieve their goals."
Apa's focus on and desire to make the foundation a success is as steadfast as his efforts to not only make it safely to the top of Everest each trip, but, more importantly, to return home.
"Apa is not a wealthy man. He gives what he earns to his family here and in Nepal. He understands better than anybody how important providing opportunities for other people is and he is dedicated to helping whomever and however he can," said Mika, who serves as president of the Apa Sherpa Foundation.
Apa says once funding has been secured for the renovations in Thame which includes plans for a greenhouse, a heating system, bathrooms and a salary for the teacher the foundation will focus on areas in the Himalayas and elsewhere. The school currently serves more than 70 children.
"Having a grown Apa Sherpa come back to make a contribution of his own to his people, well, there is something very beautiful about that," Hillary said. "That he wants to do similar work in other places is a tribute to what kind of a person he is."
Apa Sherpa Foundation dinner
Apa Sherpa, whose 21 summits of Mount Everest is a world record, is hosting a dinner to benefit his foundation and provide renovations to the Thame School in his home village in Nepal.
When • 6:30 p.m., Friday
Where • Hilton Hotel, 255 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $100 for dinner and a silent auction
O For more information and to buy tickets > http://www.apasherpafoundation.org Apa Sherpa's successful summits of Mount Everest
1. May 10, 1990
2. May 8, 1991
3. May 12, 1992
4. Oct. 7, 1992
5. May 10, 1993
6. Oct. 10, 1994
7. May 15, 1995
8. April 26, 1997
9. May 20, 1998
10. May 26, 1999
11. May 24, 2000
12. May 16, 2002
13. May 26, 2003
14. May 17, 2004
15. May 31, 2005
16. May 19, 2006
17. May 16, 2007
18. May 22, 2008
19. May 21, 2009
20. May 22, 2010
21. May 11, 2011
Source: Apa Sherpa