“Panting for air in the oxygen-deprived peaks of the Himalayas, I’m startled awake by my Dutch tent mate’s snoring. A thick layer of ice has formed around the neck of my down sleeping bag and it takes me a minute to remember where I am. After scraping off the ice, I stumble out of the tent and my toes flinch in the moon-lit snow. Suddenly I’m instantly and acutely aware of the shadowy summits surrounding me. Everest Base Camp is only a day’s hike away...”
How did I get here? As a Colorado State University College of Business alumni ('03 - CIS) I always loved the outdoor adventures of Colorado, and that passion followed me back to Minneapolis, MN where I started as an analyst with Accenture after graduation. After spending five years focused on IT consulting and system integration, I was looking for an opportunity to help others. I was excited to hear about Accenture’s partnership with the global charity Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO - http://www.vsointernational.org/). As a foundation partner, Accenture provides funds and enables employees to work on VSO projects or participate in charity treks (my adventure) to help raise money for local initiatives.
VSO's slogan, Sharing Skills Changing Lives, reinforces the focus of the organization - to achieve change for disadvantaged people with a focus on education, HIV & AIDS and other causes. My trip specifically involved two parts – first, the trek members visit local VSO school volunteers in Bhaktapur (a poor city outside Kathmandu) and second, we embark on a 14-day trek to the Everest Base Camp.
In Nepal, our funds directly supported the partnership between volunteer teachers and local Nepalese school teachers to improve education in the region. Visiting the Nepalese schools was an eye-opening experience; students are extremely eager to learn, but lack the supplies and materials that western school children often take for granted. While we were there, one of the older students asked "How are schools different in your countries?" Where to start with an answer? We responded that although the facilities were different, the types of studies were the same - reading, writing, math, language, with an emphasis on completion.
Overall, the 23 Accenture participants from eight countries on our trek helped raise close to $140,000 for VSO's education efforts in Nepal!
After visiting the schools and working with the volunteers our trek finally began. Most of the team had been planning, fundraising and training for close to a year, so everyone was excited to be on the small plane flying into Lukla - the starting point for the next two weeks of hiking. From Lukla through Namche Bazaar, Khumjung, Periche, and other small towns in the Khumbu valley we followed the one 'trail' leading to Everest. It was too early in the season for summit expeditions, but when we finally arrived at Base Camp (17,700 feet) it was amazing to watch sherpas breaking rocks and setting up for the season’s summit attempts. The highlight of the trek was the summit of Kala Patthar (18,500 feet) where we watched the sunrise over Mount Everest.
My month in Nepal was an incredible adventure that I won't soon forget. It was great to learn of the Accenture sponsorship and support of VSO’s efforts around the world. I miss the mountains, and I’m already trying to plan the next trip!