I wanted to share with you an initiative we’ve been involved in that took place earlier this year at the top of the world. Literally.
SKINS got involved because a filmmaking mate of mine knew of our interest in calling FIFA and their sponsors to account over workers’ conditions in Qatar.
Remember our Hypocrisy World Cup campaign in 2015? Since then, despite the pressure we and others brought to the issue, I don’t reckon a lot has changed on the ground in Qatar. I acknowledge FIFA has engaged a leading expert to write a report, and set up a committee to ‘monitor’ the situation. Nepalese and other workers are still being injured or dying due to the working conditions. But I digress …
My mate, Anthony Gordon of Nothin But Shorts International, was in Nepal last year filming a TV series on the ascent of Mount Everest. The focus of the series was the local Sherpa guides who risk their lives each day taking groups of experienced and enthusiastic amateur mountaineers up-and-down the Himalayas.
There are two things that can have an impact on the livelihood of the Sherpas.
The mountain itself. Over decades the Sherpas have honed their skills and knowledge as well as developed an innate connection with the magnificent mountain landscape that forms and defines their country.
The other is preventable illnesses. Things such as diarrhoea, dysentery and fever that are caused by a basic lack of hygiene. This not only affects the Sherpas but their communities and their families also. The Nepal Centre for Environmental Action and Development says that one-third of child deaths in Nepal are directly due to diarrhoea and infection caused by lack of basic hygiene.
Of the two factors that contribute to hygiene, one is big. Clean water. A number of international aid agencies and foundations are in Nepal addressing that.
The other is relatively small and something where we can help make a difference. Anthony learned about it from talking with the Sherpas: a lack of education about basic hygiene and sanitation.
What seemed like a big problem for the Sherpas was actually something quite easy in terms of us being able to help. We take for granted that we wash our hands in clean water regularly, but through local Nepalese partners including expedition leaders Lakpa Sherpa of Pioneer Adventure and Mingma David Sherpa, we learned that this wasn’t widely understood or practiced within the Sherpa community.
Armed with a cartoon-style booklet on sanitation and hygiene, a travel pack that included first-aid anti-bacterial basics, and a health educator, the Sherpas were given a day-long education program on basic health and hygiene. (We also visited local schools with the health educator and the cartoon-style booklet).
SKINS also gave high-performance compression wear to 50 men and 10 women Sherpas, comprising long-sleeve tops and long tights. It was thrilling to see Sherpa and Summit teams on Everest decked-out in SKINS for the climbing season.
So SKINS has, literally, been at the top of the world!
If we can help in ensuring that the Sherpas can pursue an income and economic independence at home in Nepal, it’s one small, practical, and hopefully, effective step that will have long-term benefits for the Sherpa community and the people of Nepal.
If you want to know more, take a look at this short film made by Bhaila Sherpa: