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The Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation

222 Jarvis Street
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5B 2B8
(416) 941-3315

The Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation, with headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, was founded in 1976 by W.F. (Zeke) O'Conner.

The Foundation focuses on health, education and conservation in Nepal, particularly in the region near the Himalayas.

O'Conner visited the Mount Everest Basecamp in 1973, as a guest of his friend Sir Edmund who was on an expedition to to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his successful ascent of the mountain with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. O'Connor has revisited Nepal each year since his first visit in 1973.

After each trip, O'Conner returns home with a deeper understanding of the many needs of the Sherpa people and a determination to further the efforts of seeking financial aid for the worthy projects underway in the mountain regions of Nepal. The Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation, which received its charter on October 1, 1976 is registered as a charitable institution. O'Connor, the Foundation's founder, serves as President and Sir Edmund Hillary is one of the two Vice-Presidents.

The principal aims of the Foundation are:

  1. Funding and operating of the Khunde Hospital, where an addition has been built and funded entirely by Canadian contributions.

  2. Providing medical assistance in the surrounding areas where thirteen additional health clinics have been built. (These new health clinics and schools have been established with funds supplied by the Canadian Foundation and the Canadian International Development Agency.)

  3. Providing assistance in the establishment of educational facilities and promoting instruction in methods of sanitation and matters related to health in general. (Two Canadian sponsored doctors are presently in charge of the medical programmes for the Khumbu area, operating out of the Khunde Hospital.)

  4. Promoting conservation through reforestation. Nurseries in the Namache area are producing successful seedling growth as the Foundation also addresses environmental issues and pollution control.

In addition, the Foundation hopes to aid the agricultural programme within the Solu-Khumbu area of Nepal and is aiming towards the improvement of methods of food production and the provision of supplies to the Sherpa people. A small reforestation programme commenced in 1981 and a larger five-year reforestation programme within the Sagamartha National Park was initiated in 1984. More than a million trees had been planted by 1990.

Projects in education, reforestation, healthcare

Zachary at Khumjung High School
Zachary Smith, Byron's 10-yearold son at Khumjung High School, March 24, 2000.

The Foundation has worked on a number of projects in the educational field, including the building and opening of the Khumjung High School in 1961.

In April 1986 an eight room middle school was built in the village of Karikola. In 1987 a school for young Tawas (monks) was built adjacent to the monastery of Tengboche.

The Foundation also did work on the monastery at Thami and helped with the rebuilding of the Phafting bridge.

Story of Reforestation in Sagamartha Park:
The Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation of Canada took on a major responsibility in 1981 when it agreed to fully support, financially, the reforestation program in Sagamartha National Park. Originally the establishment of the Sagamartha National Park was a joint venture of the New Zealand Government and the Department of National Parks of Nepal. When in 1978-1979 the New Zealand government's contract ran out and was not renewed, Sir Edmund Hillary proposed that the Canadian Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation become involved with the National Park Department in a project to establish new plantations and expand and upgrade the nurseries in the Mount Everest region.

In 1979-80, a small plantation was established at the Village of Khunde and two-year seedlings were planted adjacent to the Hospital.

In 1981 a formal proposal and plan was presented to CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) by The Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation and the National Park Department of Nepal to plant one million seedlings over a six year period. CIDA approved this six year plan. It took eight years to plant one million seedlings, and the retention rate was approximately thirty per cent. The Foundation continues to work with forestry experts from Nepal and New Zealand, to regenerate the forest of the High Himalayas of Nepal.

All of this work in the past has been funded by the private donations of Foundation supporters in Canada and through matching grants from the Canadian International Development Agency. In the next five years the Foundation plans to improve the quality of stock in its nurseries and to restock seedlings within established plantation sites, using improved methods of planting. Foundation members say they are encouraged by the acceptance and co-operation of the local people who now realize that reforestation and conservation are a must for the future of the region.

Forestry management plans have been drawn up by the National Park Department in Namche Bazaar.

Khunde Hospital:
The Khunde Hospital was built in 1965-66 by Sir Edmund Hillary with the assistance of Lion's Club of Auckland, New Zealand, and Sir Edmund's friends who were working in Nepal as part of The Himalayan Trust.

The Himalayan Trust funded, operated and administered the Hospital from 1966 (usually husband and wife teams). Dr. Max Pearl (now deceased) was the Medical Officer of the Himalayan Trust and coordinated all aspects of the working hospital with Sir Edmund playing a major part in the administration and funding.

In 1975 the late Dr. Max Pearl and Sir Edmund discussed the funding element of the Khunde Hospital with Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation of Canada, and it was unanimously agreed that The Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation would fully fund the Khunde Hospital. On Dr. Pearl's suggestion it was agreed that The Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation would also supply volunteer Canadian doctors on an alternating basis for a two-year period. New Zealand appointed doctors had ran the Hospital from 1966 to 1976. It took four years to implement the doctor exchange program but the Canadian funding began in 1976.

The Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation approached the Canadian International Development Agency and submitted a project to fully fund the operation of the Khunde Hospital. At that time the Hospital needed refurbishing and a hospital addition plus an extra building to house charcoal, drugs and other supplies. These renovations and building were funded.

A short time later, 12 medical clinics were established in nearby Solu-Khumbu villages and in each clinic, a village health worker was established. Training of these health workers was undertaken as part of the Khunde doctor's responsibilities.

For more than 15 years, the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation has funded and monitored the operation and administration of the Khunde Hospital and appointed four couples of doctors. The Foundation has also visited the hospital each year and has submitted annual reports to CIDA.

Since 1987-88 the Foundation has paid more and more attention to the medical clinics and their health workers with the objective of passing on to them, increased responsibility in certain health areas.

In 1991 it was decided by the local people, the Himalayan Trust and the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation medical committee to explore the use of midwifery in the Solu-Khumba area. This research and the establishing of fully trained mid-wives are still taking place.

Equipment such as x-ray equipment, blood analyzers and operation suction machinery have been added. A new x-ray machine was introduced to Khunde in 1991. Ultra-sound equipment have been donated to the hospital and will be put to use in 2000.

The Khunde Hospital is available to service about 5 to 8,000 Sherpas living in the Solu Khumba area of Nepal and the 8,000 or more trekkers in the Khumbu (Mount Everest) area. The Hospital staff is comprised of two western volunteer doctors and three paid para-medic staff 12 months a year. It is the only medical facility that operates on a year-round basis in the Khumbu area.

The Khunde Hospital is equipped to handle basic medical care including some minor operations such as as caesarean section or appendectomies -- all complicated cases are sent to Kathmandu. The plan for the future (5 to 10 years) is to continue funding and administering the Hospital as the Foundation has done with the Himalayan Trust of New Zealand since 1976. This Hospital has been a CIDA-approved project since 1976.