New Zealanders and many others from around the world are today mourning the death of Sir Edmund Hillary, an icon of New Zealand, and a hero in the truest sense of the word. He was certainly an inspiration in my life, as a role model in terms of his tramping and climbing, and, perhaps more significantly, in terms of the sentiments expressed in his book “Nothing Venture, Nothing Win”.
The thing that impressed me most about Sir Ed is that he is a man who made a difference. A couple of years back I had the privilege of trekking in the Himilayas, and visited Khumjung secondary school on the way back down from Everest Base Camp. This was the first of the nearly 30 schools that Hillary helped build in Nepal after his summit of Everest in 1953. Sir Ed spent decades working to improve Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which helped build hospitals, clinics, bridges, airstrips and schools. He was made an honorary Nepalese citizen in 2003.
In the grounds of Khumjung High school is a statue of Hillary (see image) – and when I told the principal there that I was from New Zealand I was enthusiastically taken to see it and told all about this great man, such is the way they revere him there.
Hillary’s passion for the people of Nepal, and his commitment to helping them in very practical ways stems from a very fundamental belief he had.
“Nepalese did not ask for poverty while New Zealanders lived in affluence. The fact that we do is a blessing, and with it comes responsibilities.“
Kua hinga te totara nui o te wao tapu. Moe mai rā, Sir Ed.