Previous Projects and Events
9 year old Jigme lost his hand, and nearly his life, because he lived several weeks away from medical help, and antibiotics, in Kathmandu. His story underscores the desperate need for a small hospital in Karang or Saldang that is open year round.
Enjoy the video. His joy is contagious! Altitude Project initiated contact with Victoria Hand Project and I was privileged to be with Jigme in Kathmandu for the final fitting of his new prosthetic hand. I met with him 2 months later and he said it is so much like a real hand that he sometimes forgets that it is not.
Yak Girl – Dorje Dolma ‘YAK GIRL’ book tour!
Dorje was extremely well received at each stop on her book tour (9 events in 7 days!). At venues in Nelson, Vernon and Kelowna attendance records were smashed. One of Altitude’s goals with this project was to broaden our audience about our work in the Dolpo. Mission accomplished!
Thanks to David R. Gluns as well for installing his amazing photos of students and villagers of Saldang at each event – it made people feel like they were in the Dolpo!
An award winning documentary, about her brother, The Only Son, was screened at the Nelson Civic Theatre, February 4.
The next event for Dorje was to be the keynote speaker at the WOW Women’s Achiever Awards in Kathmandu as part of International Women’s Day celebrations. Turkish Airlines and Hyatt Regency sponsored her trip!
“A rare and fascinating testimony, told from the inside, of a little girl who made an incredible trip from inner Dolpo to America—and from the Middle Ages to the 21st century.”
—Eric Valli, director of the Oscar-nominated film Himalaya
This unusual memoir immerses the reader in the fascinating story of a spirited girl in a remote, undeveloped region of Nepal near the border of Tibet, a place made known to the world in Peter Matthiesen’s The Snow Leopard. Life above 13,000 feet in northern Dolpo―often called the last paradise because of its breathtaking snow-capped peaks, untouched beauty, and hand-irrigated green pastures―was one of constant risk and harsh survival. In the 1980s, Dolpo had no running water, electricity, motor vehicles, phones, school, or doctors, other than the local lamas, trained in the use of herbs and prayer.
Dorje Dolma’s life centered around the care of her numerous younger brothers and sisters and the family’s sheep, goats, and yaks. At age five she began herding and was soon taking the animals high in the mountains, where she fought off predatory wolves and snow leopards. Covering her first ten years, the story takes Dorje from her primitive mountain village to the bewildering city of Kathmandu, and finally to a new home in America, where she receives life saving surgery.
With humor, soul, and insightful detail, the author gives us vividly told vignettes of daily life and the practice of centuries-old Tibetan traditions. She details the heartbreaking trials, natural splendors, and familial joys of growing up in this mysterious, faraway part of the world with its vanishing culture. The sharp increase in recent years of western trekkers to the area, and the introduction of modern communication and transportation, is causing rapid change in Dolpo. This wonderful and surprising tale of survival, loss, and self-reflection offers us entry to this difficult, yet magical place.
Above all, this is the inspiring story of an indomitable spirit conquering all obstacles, a tale of a girl with a disability on her way to becoming a dynamic woman in a new world.
Dorje at the Jaipur Literature Festival, in a panel discussion, and with Simon Winchester and Wade Davis
THE ONLY SON
was screened at the Nelson Civic Theatre.
Tickets were $11.
All proceeds went to the people of the Dolpo
The Only Son is a documentary about Yak Girl Dorje Dolma’s family and the challenge of keeping Dolpo’s ancient culture alive. Dorje’s brother, Pema, grew up in the Rokpa Children’s Home in Kathmandu. The film centres on their parent’s expectation that Pema will return to Dolpo when he graduates, marry a Dolpa woman, and manage the family land.
photo courtesy of Wiro Felix
Thanks to the kind generosity of so many, Altitude Project reached our goal of $30,000. and was able to support all projects planned for the year!
Here is a short summary of our projects in 2018:
Support for 3 schools: Provide primary education for a minimum of 160 students, hire and pay teachers; purchase school supplies!
Saldang school required less support for regular operating costs in 2018 than in the past two years, as the German group, Freunde Nepal, was able to gain some ground on their fundraising since we began helping them two years ago.
However, there was a continuing need to repair and replace more roofs and we were asked to help with this infrastructure project. Learn more
We continued to support Tenzin Norbu, a Saldang graduate, he entered class 8 this year. Saldang School only goes to class 6. The schools at Karang and Komas go to class 5. In order to continue their education at a Tibetan high school, students must move to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal and a world away from the Dolpo. Please read more, these are truly amazing kids!
We helped the school at Komas in 2017 and continued with the same level of support in 2018. This school is also supported by a group from Sweden and a woman from Germany, and we are coordinating our efforts with them.
The school desperately needed a new toilet block consisting of three toilets; girls, boys and staff – currently there is one toilet that works. Altitude Project provided funding for this much needed project. The work was done very early in the season.
We became involved with the school at Karang to a very minor extent in 2017. We visited this school in October 2017 and learned of their complete loss of sponsorship. In 2018 we became their the primary sponsor.
The infrastructure at this school is in good condition and they have a very good greenhouse.
Himalayan Komang Hostel
Nyima Bhuti is a young woman from Komas who manages the hostel in Kathmandu for Komas students who are going to high school. She is the daughter of Tulku lama, who runs the school at Komas.
Nyima has been managing the hostel for four years without any compensation because there was no money. She cares for 26 children, getting them to rise early for their Tibetan lessons and prayer time before their regular school session begins. We were able to pay her a nominal salary for the tremendous work that she does for the children from her village.
Purchase of 125 portable solar lights for villagers
In October of 2017 when we trekked to the Upper Dolpo to visit the schools, we took 15 portable solar lights. The cost of each light is ~ $20 US. They provide ~ 150 lumens and can be hung like a lantern – a very practical design. We wanted to test their durability and usefulness so only took a few.
Very quickly there was a request for 125 more lights, complete with names of individuals and their village location. Many families in the Dolpo rely on fire as their only light source and these lights proved to be extremely useful; as a general light in the home, to travel to the toilet at night; to help students read and study in the evenings, and to visit neighbours.
Many of the older adults suffer from very poor eyesight due to exposure to long hours of sunlight working in the fields at such high elevation (14,000 feet!). They say these lights have really improved their quality of life.
We are able to purchase these lights at a considerable discount for charitable purposes through LuminAID and offer very special thanks for their help!
LuminAid shipped the lights to Kathmandu. There was some difficulty clearing the shipment through customs in Kathmandu but our good friends at Happy Feet Mountaineering Pvt. Ltd. were able to navigate the requirements in time for them to be transported to the Upper Dolpo and distributed to the people identified by Pema.
The 2017 fundraising campaign for Saldang School was a huge success! The goal was $15,000 and we raised $17,700 thanks to 100+ people!
Seedlings in the spring, vegetables in the summer and fall, a bright and warm classroom in the winter, the greenhouse project has been a great success! They have already asked for help building a second one.
2) The purchase of a Thuraya Satellite Phone
so the school can communicate with the outside world to provide periodic updates but most importantly in case of medical emergencies. This is potentially life saving.
Peter Werth was able to purchase the Thuraya Satellite phone for us in the US for half what it would have cost Pema in Nepal. He was on his way to Kathmandu so he delivered it too. Thank you Peter!
4) The completion of the perimeter compound wall
5) A New Source of Water for the School
There was one water supply pipe to the village; it supported domestic needs, irrigation needs and the school. The village complained that the school used too much of this precious resource. Pema located a new spring in the mountain, and needed financial assistance from us to run a new pipe from there to the school.
6) And we asked Pema, the school coordinator, to purchase some footballs and skipping ropes, and also a warm pair of socks for each child!
7) We contacted LuminAID, a company that manufactures innovative, light weight solar lights. They provided the lights at a discounted price that they offer to non-profit societies.
I was able to take some to the Dolpo in October to distribute to households that Pema felt would benefit from having a light.
8) We were able to provide funds to accommodate Tenzin,
a 2016 graduate from Class 6 in Saldang who was not able to be accommodated at Shelter108. He will attend the Srongtsen Bhrikuti Boarding High School, also in Kathmandu. It is a school of the Tibetan Exile Government.
We received a grateful thank you letter from Tenzin. We also received a message from Tenzin’s father that he “is very much happy and blessed with the support from Altitude project and wishes to convey his warm gratitude and appreciation for the help”.
We discovered that two neighbouring schools were also desperate for additional support in 2017:
1) The school at Komas,
a full day’s walk to the east from Saldang lost the support of its French founder and benefactor. He was killed in a very unfortunate para-sailing accident. Some people from Sweden and a generous woman from Germany had already stepped up to provide some support but they were still short of funds and Altitude Project was able to fill that gap!
2) The school at Karang,
a two hour walk to the north of Saldang, also lost its support from the group that had been sponsoring it. The circumstances around the loss of funding are not completely understood but they lost all of it. They are very fortunate to have Peter Werth of Himalaya Currents step in with some major support. Altitude Project was able to contribute a modest sum to help as well.
Location of Saldang, Karang and Khoma
Thank you to all who were able to donate this time!
“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
― Albert Einstein