By CALIN LAINE and ZACH LARSON | Moonshine Ink
In an incredible act of service, a dream to create Truckee HELP (Himalayan Exchange Literacy Program) was realized this summer, achieving the goal of creating a mutually beneficial cultural literacy exchange between students from both Truckee High School and Sir Edmund Hillary Khumjung School. It’s all thanks to Truckee High Juniors Calin Lane, Patrick Sullivan, and Zach Larson.
Years ago, when the boys visited Nepal for the first time in eighth grade, they were amazed by the unique landscape, architecture, and culture. After returning to the United States, they maintained a correspondence with their Sherpa friends, and eventually began to consider options for bringing aid to the Nepalese people. When they heard news of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake of 2015, they took action and raised over $6,000 to help their Sherpa guide Dasonam rebuild his home in Pangboche Village.
They continued to talk more with him see how else they could help. Dasonam put them in contact with the largest school in the Himalayan region of Nepal, and the idea for Truckee HELP was born. After communicating with the principal of Khumjung School, Shambhu Bastola, Calin, Zach, and Patrick decided that the best way for them to help the students would be through providing them tablets for learning activities.
They decided the purpose and use of these tablets had to be threefold: First, all 10th-grade students could use these tablets to connect to the internet to further their studies. Second, with internet connectivity, the Nepalese students could easily communicate with students from Truckee High School. Finally, since they are Amazon Kindles, the students could use their tablets to gain access to ebooks, as it is highly impractical for books to be transported up to Khumjung by a porter. To get the tablets, the three boys created a GoFundMe and raised over $4,500 through the kindness of incredibly generous donors. With the money they purchased 52 Amazon Fire tablets.
Calin, Zach, and his father Derek traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal this summer to carry out the primary stages of their program: tablet delivery and setup. One quick helicopter ride later they were finally back in Lukla after all those years, where they would begin their second journey through Nepal.
On June 22, the sixth day of trekking through the mountains, they ascended the final 1,000 feet from Namche village to Khumjung school. As they made their climb completely engulfed in fog, they could barely make out the silhouettes of five people ahead. Catching up to them, they discovered the girls were students at Khumjung school. They would see the girls again later that day at the school.
In the village of Khumjung, they set off for the school. First they met the principal, Shambhu, who they’d been in contact with prior to the trip. Shambhu assembled the faculty who would receive an explanation of the technology and how it was intended to be used. They were an attentive group and raised many fine points that hadn’t been discussed.
Shambhu quickly directed the trekkers into a cramped classroom with not only the teachers but the majority of the 10th grade. The visiting group was relatively — majorly — unprepared.
Due to a local festival called Dumji, school was not in session. But the majority of the students attended the presentation anyway, which demonstrated their dedication to learning and self-betterment. At the conclusion of the presentation, Shambhu presented the American visitors with white khatas: decorative silk scarves given to express appreciation and respect. The group would receive many more throughout the length of their stay.
Zach and Calin later taught the Khumjung students how to use their Amazon accounts to communicate with fellow students back in Truckee. Through the Amazon documents, Khumjung school students initiated a discussion with the fourth member of the trekking group, Patrick, who remained behind in Truckee.
To date, Calin and Zach have returned to the United States and communications continue. The students have become accustomed to using the tablets to further their studies and to talk to Calin, Zach, and Patrick. Things, however, are far from finished, as they now aim to expand on their project. Additionally, they are currently working to get the school a better wifi connection and to set up a book fund for the Khumjung students. As a final step they want to connect the Khumjung students to more students from Truckee High. They hope this communication will one day expand to the travel of Nepalese students to Truckee.