SEATTLE, April 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- REI Adventures has introduced thousands of trekkers to Nepal's high Himalayas, ancient temples and traditional cultures over the past 30 years. In recent months, REI has worked closely with local partners and community leaders to fund and coordinate the construction of the Everest region's first disaster relief center in Namche Bazaar. Immediately following the April 2015 earthquake, members and the co-op gave more than $900,000 to support the relief effort.
Once complete, the relief center will be stocked with essential supplies that can be accessed by the community in the event of a natural disaster. Local police and the Army prepared the site at no cost and local residents were employed for the construction. The center was made possible by a partnership between REI's in-country guide team, Sagarmatha Buffer Zone Authority and Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC). The SPCC is a nonprofit environmental organization established by the local people to implement waste management activities in the Khumbu, including numerous hiking trails in the region, Everest Base Camp and higher camps.
As the unofficial capital of Nepal's Khumbu region at an elevation of 11,286 feet, Namche Bazaar and the surrounding communities of the Khumbu are home to over 2,000 year-round residents. The population significantly increases during the spring and fall seasons when trekkers and climbers stop to acclimatize on their way to Everest Base Camp. Nepal is a country of extremes. During non-trekking seasons, the region can experience devastating monsoons and fires.
"Our guide partners in Nepal are an important part of the REI Adventures family. For decades they have so warmly welcomed our members into their communities and homes. It's our desire to help them and their communities be prepared for whatever Mother Nature might throw at them next," said Cynthia Dunbar, REI Adventures general manager.
"REI Adventures' financial assistance was highly appreciated. This really made us feel that we were not alone. Your generosity made us stronger and encouraged us," said Mingma Dorji Sherpa, who has supported REI treks in Nepal for nearly 30 years. "For many years, I've told our team in Nepal that REI is like a big tree. Under this tree people can enjoy the shade when it is too hot; the tree provides oxygen. REI is a big tree for us in Nepal promoting travel and your work provides many jobs and helps many families."
Earthquake relief, member generosity and ongoing efforts
Immediately after the earthquake, REI Adventures focused on ensuring its three trekking groups were out of harm's way – two groups were in the Everest region and one in Chitwan National Park. REI was in regular contact with its lead guides and travelers' emergency contacts about their progress and return home.
At the same time, REI gave $50,000 to Mercy Corps to support the nonprofit's dedicated team already in the country. The company also reached out to its 5.5 million active members to ask that they consider a donation. Their generosity was incredible – 10,800 members gave more than $852,000 in just a few days. These funds were put to work by aid workers distributing essential items, emergency supplies and clothing to local residents. REI's vendor partner LifeStraw also donated 50 community water filters to provide safe drinking water to 25,000 people. Nearly half went to World Wildlife Fund along with REI tents for the relief effort in western Nepal. Filters will be placed in the Namche Bazaar relief center and other areas throughout the Everest region.
"We wish to extend our heartfelt appreciation to REI's members and the co-op for standing with the people of Nepal," said Sanjay Karki, Mercy Corps Nepal country director. "Thanks to your contributions, approximately 11,275 families (an estimated 56,375 people) have begun rebuilding their lives and livelihoods."
REI also provided funding to the nonprofit Nepal SEEDS that is focused on building new medical facilities, schools and residences. The funds will be used to repair and replace 100 residential and community biogas systems that REI Adventures funded in 2011 and that were severely damaged in the earthquake. Biogas eliminates the need for in-home wood fires for cooking, thus improving health conditions and allowing more time for farming and the education of children. The units also provide a community waste management solution and pathogen-free crop fertilizer.
Through all efforts to date, more than $1 million has been donated or granted by REI members, REI and LifeStraw.
Return of tourism in Nepal
Travel and tourism are among Nepal's largest contributors to its economy. Last fall, REI Adventures resumed operations in the Everest and Annapurna regions with its 19-day Everest Base Camp Trek, 14-day Everest Lodge to Lodge Trek and 14-day Annapurna Sanctuary Trek. Fourteen groups traveled to Nepal to explore the incredible beauty and culture of the region. The spring trekking season started earlier this month. For the year, there are over 20 confirmed trips, including Nepal's Royal Trek in the Langtang region.
To encourage co-op members to experience the wonder of the incredible country, REI will offer a $600 discount on its 14-day Everest Lodge to Lodge Trek from May 20 to May 30 during the company's anniversary sale. Travel must be completed in 2016.
About REI Adventures
Award-winning REI Adventures has been a global leader in worldwide guided active adventure trips since 1987. As the travel business for national specialty outdoor retailer REI, the company offers unique itineraries focused on sustainable, human-powered outdoor adventure, including hiking, biking, kayaking, climbing and more. Guests experience iconic destinations as guides take them off the "beaten path," and provide opportunities to explore a destination, get to know the local people, their culture, the flora and fauna and discover things they would not be able to duplicate on their own or with another travel company. REI members receive a special discount price on most trips. For more information, full itineraries and trip reviews provided by guests, visit http://www.rei.com/adventures.