Dawa Geljen Sherpa, in partnership with Classrooms in the Clouds, is leader of this effort.
Born in Lukla and now regarded as a village “Elder,” Dawa knows first-hand the needs of his community and all the surrounding communities that send their children to Lukla for education.
Dawa has a long history running aid projects in Nepal
Despite only having had 6 years of school in his entire life, Dawa became a successful mountain guide and started his own trekking and expedition company. In 2008, he switched his focus from his company to building schools in villages so poor and remote they are almost never visited by western tourists.
Dawa’s accomplishments (in partnership with Classrooms in the Clouds) in the area of building schools include:
- 28 classrooms in 4 different locations
- a computer lab
- 2 libraries
- being instrumental in securing funding to place over 6 full-time teachers in these classrooms
Dawa built in places so remote that other organizations often couldn’t get to them and western volunteers rarely set foot in them. These include Basa, Sotang, and Majgaun.
Dawa quickly realized the importance of education
Son of a Yak herder, Dawa was born to an extremely poor Sherpa family in the village of Lukla, Nepal. His father died when he was a boy and he was suddenly forced to drop out of school and take over caring for a large extended family. Despite having had only 6 years of school in his entire life, Dawa went on to teach himself the languages and the climbing skills needed to become a successful international mountain guide. He often risked his life on Mt. Everest and other high-altitude peaks to support his family. Unlike many of friends, he is still alive today, despite this risky job.
Through his guiding job, he has traveled to 22 countries and has gained a unique perspective on how important education is to the children of Nepal.
His dream is that the children of other families in Nepal would not have to face the same dangerous and limited options he was forced to choose. He believes this can only happen through education.
Dawa has been a trusted mountain guide for over 26 years
Dawa is a qualified mountaineering guide, and is a 6th generation Sherpa. Dawa has been leading treks and expeditions in this region of Nepal for over 26 years, working for both Peregrine Expeditions and Mountain Madness before forming his own guiding company.
Dawa has many successful ascents of large Himalayan peaks to his name, including getting within 50m of the top of Everest (29,029 ft) before turning back to ensure the safety of his client. His other Himalayan accomplishments include Broad Peak (29,029 ft), Ama Dablam (22,349 ft), Baruntse (23,497 ft), and Cho Oyu (26,906 ft). On other continents he has guided on Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft). Dawa has also worked with National Geographic in Tibet and on many other projects.
Dawa’s one-man earthquake relief effort
Dawa was touched firsthand by the two earthquakes when both his house in Lukla and his house in Kathmandu were damaged. Despite this, after the second earthquake Dawa immediately embarked on an arduous 15-day trip to bring emergency earthquake relief supplies to remote villages surrounding Lukla rather than focusing his time and effort on his own rebuilding needs.
Dawa’s new mission
Dawa has now turned his attention to a new problem: The language and cultural extinction of the Sherpa people (and other Tibetan-based peoples) of the Mt. Everest region of Nepal.
With no support from any NGOs or other organizations, he single-handedly built a unique school that was successfully reversing this trend. When it opened, over 1 hundred students showed up at it’s door, more than the school could accommodate.
After one month of serving students in Lukla and many remote Nepali villages, the school collapsed during the May 22nd 2015 earthquake that hit Nepal.