Under the leadership of Professor Yun-Yaw Chen (Department of Electrical Engineering), 16 students and 1 administrative assistant of the NTU Leadership Development Program completed an outdoor training session in the Khumbu region of Nepal from July 30th to August 23rd. During this training period, the participants succeeded in climbing Mt. Kala Patthar (elevation 5545 meters) and conducted community service at Khumjung (an education center of the Khumbu region) township afterwards.
This Himalayan Project was initially conceived by Professor Chih-mou Hsieh of the Outdoor Leadership Program of Taiwan Sports University. In addition to participation from the NTU Leadership Development Program and the Taiwan Sports University, the Sophia & Phronesis College of Tunghai University and the Yilan Branch Office of the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families also sent 53 students to join the project. The project consisted of two parts. The first part was to conduct hiking, trekking and outdoor leadership courses in the Himalayan mountains, and the second part was to render community service. The purpose of the project, in a nutshell, was to utilize outdoor training courses and community service to broaden the student’s international perspective, to inspire them to strive for excellence, and to cultivate the students’ aspiration for leadership services and caring for the natural environment. At the same time, the project aims to foster the students’ self growth through risk taking, to heighten their self-awareness and their anti-pressure capability.
Hiking all the way back and forth from Mt. Lukla (elevation 2800 meters) to Mt. Kala Patthar (elevation 5545 meters) was a 250 km long journey. Adopting the LOD system (leader of the day), the students learned how to lead, to support one another, and to make decisions through various tasks encountered in the Himalayan natural classroom. Under the LOD system, the students cast votes everyday to elect one to two leaders as decision makers for that day. In addition, they also cast votes to select those in charge of serving as the first leg, the anchorman, the time keeper, and the record keeper. Through this kind of role assignment, the participants had the opportunities to experiences the tasks of every role, and the different leadership styles of the LODs. Mother nature is the greatest outdoor classroom of all, where many difficulties and dangers not encountered in ordinary urban living abound. Conquering these dangers and risks gave the students very precious learning experiences. For instance, one student was faced with the threat of altitude sickness, and opted to withdraw to a lower altitude area. When this incident occurred, another student voluntarily gave up his plan to climb the summit, and offered to accompany his partner to the lower altitude area. As far as the team was concerned, the most important thing was not summit climbing, but that everyone could return home safely. In the hiking process, if anyone encountered physical discomfort, others would share the burden of his backpack, so that everyone could accomplish the goal of climbing to the top. In the sharing courses offered after the team made to the top of the mountain, one student said: “Making to the summit is no longer the ultimate goal of this trip. What turned out to be most important was the mutual trust and mutual support we gave one another in the process and the adherence to the credo that we would never give up.”
After climbing atop the summit, the team members went to the Khumjung district (elevation 3790 meters) to engage themselves in community service. They did the painting job for the newly finished dormitories of the local school. In addition, they raised the funds to build the fences for the local altar, and built the fences with their own hands. On top of all these, the team members held summer camp activities for the first grade to eighth grade students of Khumjung High School students, which included: scientific experiment camps, intramural soccer and volleyball games, classes on the paper folding art of Taiwan, and the most exciting Taiwan/Nepal Friendship volleyball match. These activities not only provided rewarding learning experiences for the local children, but also exerted tremendous impact on the university students from Taiwan and made them reflect upon themselves. Although the short term service rendered in the Khumjung district could not actually improve the local education condition, but we believe that we have planted the seed of hope in the minds of the Nepal school children by our example of helping other people.
Before the team left Taiwan, teachers and instructors kept inculcating the team members the concept of “Leave No Trace” (LNT). As a result, during the outdoor training process, students would garner up the garbage which they produced in the mountainous areas and put them into their self-prepared garbage bags. Moreover, they would pick up the garbage found on the mountain trails and take these garbage to a place where they could be disposed. In the hiking process, our local Sherpa guides told us their worries about what global warming did to the mountainous area where they lived. These changes included: glacier zone kept receding year by year, the snow fall season became shorter and shorter, and avalanches became more frequent, etc. Perhaps ten years from now, when the glaciers completely melt down, the Sherpa people will have to trek four hours every day to fetch drinkable water. Just as we were marveling at the magnificent mountain view, the sounds of the glaciers collapsing rumbled in our ears as if to remind us of the fury of the earth.
After 25 days spent in the Himalayan mountains learning outdoor leadership and providing volunteer service to the local residents, students of the NTU Leadership Development Program all had a more profound understanding of the meaning of “Service.” From the Sherpa people, they learned what true happiness was; from the dialogue with the giant mountains, they learned to become humble. NTU is truly grateful to the National Youth Commission of the Executive Yuan, as well as to the LungYen Culture and Education Foundation, Ceres International Corps., China Airlines and all the other supporting agencies, without whose subsidies and assistance the students of NTU’s Leadership Development Program would not have been able to conduct international service and outdoor leadership courses in the Himalayan mountains. On the return trip, China Airlines had some flight delays, causing the team members to have trouble catching a flight to return home. Fortunately, China Airlines made good on its promise to treat customers as the top priority, so our team members were able to return to Taipei in separate groups. NTU owes the people at China Airlines a special work of thanks. As the Himalayan journey ends, to all the participants their next journey has just begun. Like the Sherpa people,
we say: “Thuche!!” (Thanks!!)