Board of Directors
LHAKPA NORBU SHERPA, Ph.D., CHAIRMAN
Lhakpa Norbu hails from Thame, and presently lives and works out of the Thame Valley. He received a Ph.D. in Forest Resources from the University of Washington, the first person from the Sherpa community to receive a doctorate. He began his education in the Sir Edmund Hillary Schools in the Everest region; his higher education was achieved through a Colombo Plan scholarship to Lincoln University in New Zealand followed by a Fulbright student scholarship to the United States. He was also a Visiting Fulbright-Post Doctoral Fellow at Yale University. Dr. Sherpa joined the Government of Nepal in 1980 to work as Park Superintendent in Rara Lake and Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Parks. He collaborated with The Mountain Institute (TMI) in 1989 to carry out planning of the Makalu-Barun National Park, and later joined TMI on a full-time basis as Manager of the Qomolangma Conservation Program in the Tibet Autonomous Region (China). He also served as Co-Director of TMI's Himalayan Program from 2005 to 2009 during which he developed and implemented an integrated cultural conservation and livelihood improvement project in the Sagarmatha National Park.
LAKPA RITA SHERPA, PRESIDENT
Lakpa Rita grew up in Thame and began working on Mt. Everest as a teenager. Known as the "Best Sirdar in the Khumbu", he has summitted Mt. Everest 17 times on over 23 expeditions - bringing a record 253 climbers to the summit under his leadership. In 2009, Lakpa Rita became the first Sherpa and first Nepali to climb the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each continent. Now based in Seattle, Washington, he spends several months every year leading expeditions in Nepal with support staff from Thame, a major source of local employment. Lakpa Rita's strength is matched by his compassionate leadership. Five of his team’s Sherpas were killed in the avalanche on Mt. Everest on April 18th, 2014, and Lakpa Rita was featured on the Discovery Channel’s Everest Avalanche Tragedy documentary that addressed the accident. He has guided non-profit organizations such as the Juniper Fund and the Sherpa Education Fund to further the welfare of the Sherpa community.
KAMI TEMBA SHERPA, M.D., VICE PRESIDENT
Dr. Kami Temba Sherpa is the Chief Medical Officer of the Kunde Hospital, which serves the Thame community as well as neighboring valleys in the vicinity of Mt. Everest. Born in Thame, he worked as a paramedic for 20 years in neighboring Kunde and subsequently became the first person from the Sherpa community to receive a medical degree, enabled by a full scholarship from the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation. After finishing his internship at Patan Hospital in Kathmandu, Dr. Kami Temba returned to Kunde Hospital. For decades, Dr. Kami Temba has was worked tirelessly towards improving the healthcare of the Thame Valley community and beyond.
APA SHERPA, DIRECTOR
Apa, born Lhakpa Tenzing, was raised in Thame. Following his father's death when he was 12 years old, Apa had to take up the responsibilities of supporting his mother, two sisters and three younger brothers. He dropped out of school and earned money working as a porter for mountaineering groups. His climbing career began in 1985, and he worked as a kitchen boy and porter for various groups but was not given the opportunity to reach the summit of Mt. Everest until 1990. Nicknamed "Super Sherpa", he holds the world record for reaching the summit of Mt. Everest more times than any other person: 21 times. Now based in Salt Lake City, Utah, he continues to travel regularly to Nepal. In 2009, he co-founded The Apa Sherpa Foundation, dedicated to improving education and economic development in Nepal.
norbu tenzing norgay, director
Norbu is the son of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, the first person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest along with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Thame is the ancestral home of Norbu’s mother, Daku, and it is also where his father spent part of his early life. Norbu received a degree in Economics from the University of New Hampshire. Based in San Francisco, California, he is Vice President of the American Himalayan Foundation, and travels regularly to Nepal to oversee development projects, to which he brings deep awareness of the daily challenges faced by the people of the region. He is also a well-known commentator on Sherpa welfare in the international press and an advocate of better working conditions for mountaineering workers on expeditions.
VANESSA FOLKERTS, TREASURER
Based in Beijing, Vanessa is the Senior Manager of External Partnerships and Initiatives at United Family Healthcare (Chindex), China's largest foreign-invested healthcare provider. In the wake of the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal, Vanessa founded Thame Sherpa Heritage Fund in order to rebuild and preserve the cultural heritage of the Thame Sherpa community, to which her daughter, Aria Zema, belongs. Vanessa climbed in the Himalaya during her student years at Princeton University, summitting Mt. Everest, Cho Oyu, and Baruntse in 2009-10, and finding a new family in Thame.
Jamling tenzing Norgay
Jamling is a climber, author, community leader and advocate for the well-being of Sherpas and mountain workers. He received his BA from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin. He is President of the Tenzing Norgay Sherpa Foundation, runs Tenzing Norgay Adventures, an adventure travel company, and is a frequent speaker at conferences around the world. To honor the memory of his father, Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, Jamling climbed Mt. Everest in 1996 as part of the hugely successful IMAX Everest film. He also co-authored the New York Times best-selling book, "Touching My Fathers Soul- A Sherpa's Journey To The Top of Everest". Jamling is the recipient of the International Golden Civil Award from the Prime Minister of Nepal, His Holiness The Dalai Lama's Award, and the National Citizen's Award from the President of India.
Marc Veletzos (Ph.D.) is an Associate Professor with the Department of Civil Engineering at Merrimack College. He has authored many academic papers on earthquake engineering, with specialized focus on improving the seismic design of complex bridge systems. He is a founding member of the Massachusetts Engineers and Architects Emergency Response Committee and is a licensed Civil Engineer in the State of California. Dr. Veletzos has also been involved in ongoing efforts to improve access to clean water in post-earthquake Haiti. He traveled to Thame Valley in 2015, volunteering his skills to help assess the earthquake damage to community structures and teaching basic strengthening techniques for rebuilding.
David is a professional mountain guide and cameraman who has worked closely with the expedition workers and community of Thame for over fifteen years. He has reached the summit of Mt. Everest six times and successfully led expeditions to all of the Seven Summits. Based in Seattle, Washington, he spends two to three seasons per year in Nepal professionally or personally. David has contributed to a number of non-profit projects in conjunction with his climbing. He is the executive director of the Juniper Fund, which provides assistance to families impacted by the injury or death of mountain workers in the climbing industry.
Pasang yangjee sherpa, PH.D.
Pasang Yangjee is an environmental anthropologist from Monzo, a village south of Thame. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Washington State University. Her primary research focuses on human dimensions in climate change. Her topical and regional research interests include contemporary human problems, international development, indigenous peoples, South Asia and High Asia. She is a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University. She recently accepted the position of postdoctoral fellow at the India China Institute at The New School in New York for their Sacred Himalaya Initiative. She will spend the next two years researching the intersection of religion and ecology in the Kailash Sacred Landscape.
yangji doma sherpa
Yangji Doma is a staff member of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC), and a Thame native. Dividing her time between Namche and Kathmandu, she oversees communications related to the SPCC's Icefall Doctors and other roles on Mt. Everest. Yangji has been instrumental in ensuring that local waste management is done through community-based organizations, maximizing local participation and benefit-sharing through environmentally friendly practices. She holds a Masters Degree in Natural Resources Management from University of Manitoba, Canada, and a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Science from Kathmandu University. Yangji has been involved in development and research projects in Nepal, India and Canada. Her research focuses on waste management; livestock/herding practices in response to the tourist economy and climate change; and community involvement in tourism development.
JEMIMA DIKI SHERPA, Nepal Operations manager
Jemima Diki is a freelance writer, interpreter, and community organiser from Thame. She studied Anthropology and Media Studies in Aotearoa New Zealand, with a focus on issues of indigenous self-determination and self-representation. Her experience includes time as a radio host, journalist, and editor in Nepal ; academic research for Yale University and Victoria University of Wellington; teaching and mentoring work for the Japanese Education Ministry (MEXT) and Victoria University; and organization and event facilitation for international student groups, a range of local organizations in Solukhumbu and Kathmandu, and for ICIMOD. She currently serves as a member of Himalayan Trust Nepal and is an executive committee member of Mountain Spirit. Her 2014 essay about the impact of deaths on Mount Everest on the Thamecho community was published in the Kathmandu Post, Alpinist magazine and the Financial Times, translated into German for Die Alpen, and shortlisted for a Foreign Press Award in London.
Kami Doma sherpa
Kami Doma is an English teacher at the Thame School. Born to a farming family in Thame Teng (Upper Thame), she was educated at the Thame and Khumjung schools, and then completed her higher secondary education at New Millenium College in Kathmandu. Since 2011, she has been teaching at the Thame School and living with her family, including baby daughter Lhakpa Doma (pictured here), in Thame Teng.