Quality education for Sherpa children, women’s literacy, and medical scholarship programs are all at the core of SEHF.

Current Initiative: Children’s Education

Zeke O’Connor School

The Zeke O’Connor (ZOC) School is located in Phaplu, Nepal. Construction was completed in 2011 with the help of the Rotary Club of West Calgary, and the first students were welcomed that same year. ZOC School began with approximately 30 students per grade, both boys and girls, and initially offered a curriculum for grades 8-12. Recently we were able to add a junior school and early development programming. The school campus includes a computer lab, library and a biology lab, and includes grades K-12. ZOC School is currently the only school offering STEM education in the Solukhumbu (Everest) region. 

Named for the founder of the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation of Canada and close friend and collaborator of Sir Hillary, the school is a tribute to the memory of Zeke and his significant contributions in service to the Sherpa people.

Zeke O'Connor School Winter Newsletter 2022 - Students-ONE-Program

The ZOC School is tuition-free and is fully funded by SEHF

From its inception, it was designed to serve the poorest of the poor in the Solukhumbu region of Nepal. The children who attend are the offspring of the laborers including the Sherpa porters who carry the very heavy loads of travelers and climbers. Many students have parents who value education deeply but who themselves may be illiterate. These families are tremendously devoted to having their children receive the opportunities a quality education can provide. They make great sacrifices to have their children go to our school.

ZOC School is dedicated to the education of girls

ZOC School maintains a student population that is more than 40% girls, which is remarkably high, particularly for such a remote area.

Parents traditionally sent their sons to school and had daughters stay home to help. Unfortunately, young girls in rural areas of Nepal are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Education and literacy are the pathway to a better future and help prevent human trafficking.


Get Involved: The ONE Program

One Student One Family Program (or the “ONE” program) matches students with donors, creates school newsletters and facilitates program communications.

Our goal is to have the ONE Program be the primary source of funding for ZOC School operating expenses.

It costs approximately $1000 per student per year to operate our school. Expenses include salaries for staff and teachers (including specialized math and science teachers), management and upkeep of the buildings and grounds, personal hygiene, laboratory equipment, library and reference books, school excursions, and sports and recreation activities.


Past Initiatives: Women’s Literacy & Medical Scholarship Programs

Women’s Literacy Initiatives

Adult women’s literacy program in Naya Bazaar


With funding from The Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation of Canada, this project started in June of 1999 in Naya Bazaar, a community of four to five hundred. There were 25 to 30 young mothers/women attending the adult literacy classes, five days a week for two hours a day. This was the first project of its kind in the area and has brought a lot of excitement to the community. The Adult/Women Literacy program was very well received and appreciated by all the participants who did not get the opportunity to learn to read and write. Despite the daily demands of looking after family, farm, social obligations and in some cases, small businesses, the participants were determined to improve their lives through this opportunity for education.

Why Women’s Literacy?

By Nima Sherpa McElhinney, SEHF Director

The goal of the program was to reach out to adult women to teach them how to read, write and learn simple arithmetic skills to improve the quality of their lives.  To read and write letters, read government health and sanitation posters and pamphlets, or pass a note to a friend really does make a difference.

Nowadays, things are changing rapidly even in the remote areas of Nepal.  People are experiencing the necessity to learn to read and write in order to cope effectively with completely new sets of challenges — like having to deal with telephone bills, electricity bills or marking up a calendar.  Even a simple task of dialing a telephone is difficult without recognizing the numbers.  This may sound very simple but for an illiterate adult it seems like an impossible battle.

Another change has been the increase in the number of younger people leaving home to far away places like India, America and Canada.  For many mothers not being able to read their children’s letter and write to their children is very frustrating and sad.  This program hopes to change that as well as the myth that you are too old to go to school if you pass the age of 14 or 15.

Miss Kanchi Maya Sherpa, a college graduate, runs the program with some training in adult informal classroom teaching methods.  Hiring a female instructor especially one from the local community serves as a great role model for the local women and girls.  Usually this type of role model is only seen on posters put up on a wall.

Medical Scholarship Program

Providing medical scholarships for Sherpa students has been a large part of the SEHF program for many years now. Several of the doctors have returned back to Kunde hospital to care for the community there, which is so wonderful to see, and has always been part of the long-term vision of the program.

More on the medical scholarship program:

Kami Temba Sherpa

Kami Temba Sherpa (now Doctor Kami Sherpa) who worked as a paramedic for 20 years at the Kunde Hospital was accepted into the University of Fiji’s Medical School He then attended the University for four years and he received his medical degree. All this was done on a full Scholarship (now known as Mingma Norbu Scholarships) from the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation. After finishing his internship at Patan Hospital in Kathmandu, Dr. Kami Temba returned to Kunde. He is now the Senior Medical Officer and Chief of Medicine at Kunde Hospital. He will continue to have the backup of one local doctor and at times (when he feels it necessary) a foreign volunteer doctor.

Mingmar Chering Sherpa

In 2006 Mingmar Chering Sherpa, a Mingma Norbu Sherpa Scholarship student, graduated and received his medical degree from Kathmandu University Medical School. Dr. Mingmar is due to finish his one-year compulsory internship posting in his teaching hospital in the next two months and will come to Kunde on completion of his internship. He will commence his work some time next year as it is good to have at least six months residency experience prior to coming to Kunde Hospital.

Mingma Norbu Sherpa Medical Scholarships Provided The Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation