Everest Region ‘Disaster Relief Center’ Opens This Spring

An emergency facility stocked with supplies for rescue and survival in the event of a disaster is now under construction in Namche Bazaar, Nepal.

Local workers employed in Namche Bazaar during the rebuilding effort

A windfall of $1 million in donations from REI and its members, much of which aided the Mercy Corps in its relief efforts immediately following the quake, will help build the center. Stocked inside will be technical gear like ice and rock climbing equipment for emergency avalanche response as well as sleeping bags, blankets, tents, fire-starters, walkie-talkies, batteries, flashlights, rope, pick axes, and basic hand tools for survival and rescue scenarios.

In the wake of a devastating earthquake in April 2015 that killed more than 8,000 people, including 19 on Mount Everest, the donation will help equip the region to respond to emergencies like landslides, earthquakes, avalanches, and building collapses.

The center is set to open later this month in Namche Bazaar, a village of about 2,000 year-round residents. The open date corresponds with the annual surge of trekkers and climbers who go through Namche en route to Everest as well as neighboring villages, trekking routes, and satellite peaks.

Namche Bazaar

In a country that regularly experiences extremes, from raging wildfires to torrential monsoons, the relief center will provide a critical hub for first-response and emergency supply distribution in extremely hard-to-reach areas.

Hub Of Nepal Tourism

Namche Bazaar explodes in population each year as an acclimatization point for tourists and climbers. It also plays host to the headquarters of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC), a local environmental protection non-profit developed in 1991.

The SPCC worked with REI to develop the relief center and will oversee the distribution of all supplies to the public, at no cost, in times of need.

In addition to the REI-provided equipment, LifeStraw donated water filters for the relief center. (Prior to this, LifeStraw had donated 50 community water filters to help provide safe drinking water to thousands of people following last year’s earthquake.)

The nearly completed relief center sits at the base of Mt. Everest
The nearly completed relief center sits at the base of Mt. Everest

Of the roughly $1 million raised by REI in the immediate aftermath of last year’s earthquake – over $850,000 of which came directly from its members – it only took $40,000 to plan, design, and begin building the relief center. This was thanks in large part to a collaboration with local authorities and the Nepal Army and police to secure and clear the land at no cost.

Unfortunately, it took a tragedy to bring in the money – and attention – necessary to build the facility. “The SPCC had this idea for a long time,” said Mingma Dorji Sherpa, REI’s lead in-country contact for trekking trips to Everest Base Camp. “But because of a lack of funds, they were not able to do it.”

REI Adventures members embark on Base Camp trek
REI Adventures members embark on Base Camp trek

REI’s contributions to the year-long push to recover and rebuild in Nepal are a small piece of the overall global effort, which is estimated at over $3 billion in donations and relief funds. Total damages from the 2015 earthquake are estimated at $10 billion.

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REI has had a 30-year presence in the Everest region via Nepal-based REI Adventures trips and various trekking excursions, thus forging many local connections. In addition to the aid money, the co-op continued filling paychecks for each of its local guides and workers throughout the aftermath of the earthquake.

Tours of Everest began again last fall and REI is incentivizing a 14-day tour this year with a $600 discount (available May 20 – 30th for members during its anniversary sale), in hopes of encouraging members to resume treks through the region.

–See REI’s news on Sustainable Communities and Tourism in Nepal.

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.
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