Forestry and natural resource professionals are headed to Nepal in the fall of 2020 on a trip lead by Hintonite Sharad Karmacharya.
Karmacharya and his wife Daya Karmacharya organize educational and retreat trips to Nepal and host charity fundraisers in support of the Support Nepal Program.
What started as a Carleton University field program trip for environmental students grew into a passion project, hosting multiple tours to Nepal for all kinds of travellers over the past 20 years.
The upcoming trip is a fundraising trip in collaboration with Forests Without Borders, a Canadian-based organization that works with people around the world to restore or improve their forest landscapes.
“It could be open for everybody, but it’s not just travelling, it’s also learning. There will be quite a few talk programs and field visits and going to the area where we’re doing our forest projects,” said Karmacharya, who is a land management planner at Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
“This will be more in collaboration with the Canadian Institute of Forestry which is a national Canadian forestry association, and also Forestry Without Borders,” he added.
As a member of the board of trustees for Forests Without Borders, Karmacharya has collaborated and raised money for the organization once before.
During that last trip, they raised money and helped build a tree nursery and a plantation at a school.
The students at the Nepalese school helped plant the trees and learned about the importance of forestry.
“Recently I’ve started a project, which is to promote electric cooking to conserve forest resources so that they don’t go to forests for fuel wood,” explained Karmacharya.
An electric grid already goes through a village where they’ve started the project, but the community hasn’t quite adopted electric cooking into their culture.
Funds for the project are approved from Forests Without Borders, and the project should be completed by the end of 2020.
Participants of their trip in the fall will visit that site and learn about the project.
The Karmacharyas moved from Nepal to Ottawa in 1995 where they began bringing Carleton University students on educational trips to Nepal.
“The idea first came to me and some of my friends who used to work at Carleton University, they had a summer program and they were looking for some field based program,” said Karmacharya.
He designed a university-credit trip for students to learn about environmental issues in a developing country.
He quickly realized that more people, not only students, were interested in the learning experience and they created the Himalayan retreat program.
All the trips included a variety of activities to give travellers some perspective on the culture, religion, geography, development, and environmental issues.
The Karmacharyas continued to host different Nepal trips after they moved to Hinton in 2001.
“I’ve done quite a few where lots of people from Hinton participated. You talk [with people] around here and they’ll say ‘Yea, I’ve been to Nepal, I went with Sharad and Daya,’” said Karmacharya.
In 2017, a group of high school students from Harry Collinge High School (HCHS) went to Nepal and received hands-on experience at Nepalese plantations.
Karmacharya hoped the program would be approved by the Grande Yellowhead Public School Division and he mentioned that the principal of HCHS was interested in formalizing the program, but unfortunately it didn’t meet certain criteria. The last Himalayan retreat was hosted in 2014 and currently there aren’t any planned.
“Between high school students and the retreat, we’ll do one of those. Right now we’re thinking about the high schools, but if we don’t do that, we might do another retreat,” said Karmacharya of their upcoming plans.
Participants in their Nepal excursions are often encouraged to bring donation items along, which was something that was inspired by the Karmacharya’s daughter.
“When she was 10 or 12 years old, she was talking to her friends and said ‘okay, we are going to Nepal, please bring anything you don’t need from home,’” explained Karmacharya.
Bags of clothing, books, and toys began showing up and the family started taking things back to Nepal.
Their charity is now called the Support Nepal Program, and through this they’ve built schools and libraries, sponsored students in schools, funded a drinking water system, bought student uniforms, and more.
“Sometimes you feel like you move out of your country at the prime of your career, there’s always a little bit of guilt. I think this is a way to give back to the country where you grew up and got your education,” said Karmacharya.
“We love doing it and the whole family gets involved.”To learn more about the upcoming Nepal trip with Forests Without Borders, go to fwb-fsf.org.