Sir Edmund Hillary will have a New Zealand state funeral tomorrow. But he will be remembered not only for standing atop Mt Everest with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953, but also for his humanitarian efforts over the past fifty or so years.
In 1960 he created The Himalayan Trust to give back to the Sherpa people, who had helped him attain global recognition. The principles of the Himalayan Trust reflect the man, who TV NZ called 'humble, hard-working and honest.' The principles are that the Trust provide basic infrastructure needs that the Sherpas really want (education, health, forests, monastery repairs and response to natural disasters). The principles also state that the Sherpas themselves to eagerly contribute time and effort to the projects- this "self help" confirming the importance and relevance of the work. The Trust to rely on voluntary workers and virtually eliminate overhead and that the donations to be transferred direct to the projects in Nepal; no money paid to middlemen or agents.
Apparently such donations have exceeded £500,000 ($ 980,000 USD), which may not seem like a lot of money, but for a poor mountain country and its people it has been made go a long way. Two hospitals, 13 health clinics, 30 schools built. 1 million trees planted. Monasteries built or rebuilt. National Parks created. Annual grants for 100 students to attend higher education. Literacy and educational programs for women. Teacher training and park ranger training. And the list goes on.
Is it any wonder that in a recent poll of Nepalese children Sir Edmund rated second behind the Dalai Lama as a hero. As one old Sherpa put it, "Because of him, we have access to schools and medicine. Without him, how could we have this? He climbed Everest, yes, but to us he did much more."
Imagine a world where the legacy of our passing was as rich as that of Sir Ed. As the captain of The Enterprise was heard to say, "Make it so."