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Peterborough

Amid the peaks, a new direction

Peterborough-based nonprofit teams with EMS to provide  gear that will open new opportunities for students in Himalayas

  • Robert Moses takes some photographs in his Eastern Mountain Sports studio in Peterborough.

    Robert Moses takes some photographs in his Eastern Mountain Sports studio in Peterborough.

  • Robert Moses takes some photographs in his Eastern Mountain Sports studio in Peterborough.

    Robert Moses takes some photographs in his Eastern Mountain Sports studio in Peterborough.

  • Jayant Hardikar packs donated EMS gear in his Peterborough home for his upcoming trip to Chaukori, India. Robert Moses, who lives in Dublin and who will also be going on the trip, photographs Hardikar as part of his preparations to make a short documentary for the Himalayan Education Foundation.

    Jayant Hardikar packs donated EMS gear in his Peterborough home for his upcoming trip to Chaukori, India. Robert Moses, who lives in Dublin and who will also be going on the trip, photographs Hardikar as part of his preparations to make a short documentary for the Himalayan Education Foundation.

  • Robert Moses takes some photographs in his Eastern Mountain Sports studio in Peterborough.
  • Robert Moses takes some photographs in his Eastern Mountain Sports studio in Peterborough.
  • Jayant Hardikar packs donated EMS gear in his Peterborough home for his upcoming trip to Chaukori, India. Robert Moses, who lives in Dublin and who will also be going on the trip, photographs Hardikar as part of his preparations to make a short documentary for the Himalayan Education Foundation.

In March of 2012, Himalayan Education Foundation founder and president Jayant Hardikar took several Dublin School students on the trip of a lifetime. Hardikar, who left India for graduate school in the U.S. in 1987 and now lives in Peterborough where he runs his non-profit, brought the students to visit the school he supports in Chaukori, India.

With massive snow-capped mountains lining the horizon and overlooking the lush, green village that sits itself at roughly the elevation of Mount Washington, one Dublin School student wondered aloud why there wasn’t a hiking program at the Himalaya Public School. Hardikar didn’t answer, but waited until the next day, when he hiked with both sets of students. All along the way, the Himalaya Public School students pointed out their villages from the mountain, miles away. “When the Dublin student saw these kids from the Himalaya Public School running up the slope in flip flops, he looked at me and said, ‘They really don’t need a hiking program, do they? This is their life.’”

Unlike residents of New Hampshire who hike for fun, for a good challenge, for the exercise, or just for the views, those living in the villages nestled in India’s rugged Himalaya region must scramble up and down mountains for day-to-day travel. When Hardikar, an avid hiker in both New Hampshire and India, made this observation, he thought of a way both types of mountaineers could work together.

“Hiking in India is very different from around here,” he said. “There are no marked trails or signs, and you need to have a guide, a person from a village that knows the mountains.”

But not many guides from the Himalayas have all the required skills.

“A guide is not just someone who is physically fit,” Hardikar said.“Guides need to be leaders, they need to know English, they need to have the right equipment, and they should have environmental awareness, too. People from villages see plastic and foil wrappers for the first time with tourists, and the guides will just throw the trash to the side without understanding that it won’t just decompose.”

Enter Hardikar and his new project: outdoor education. Hardikar would like to train students from the Himalaya Public School to be mountain guides so they can work in their own community. “I’d like to see alternatives to commercial outfits or going to college for these kids,” said Hardikar. “I can see a market developing, where outsiders come in and see what India has to offer.”

As a pilot program, the HEF sponsored five Himalaya Public School students to take part in an outdoor leadership program in April at the Hanifl Centre for Outdoor Education in Musooree, India. The students loved their experience so much that they wanted something similar to be offered at their own school.

To run an outdoor education program, the school will need two items: equipment, which is “not easy to find in India,” according to Hardikar, and coaches. Hardikar knows mountaineers in the area near the school willing to help coach. As for the equipment, that’s where Robert Moses, a photographer and videographer for Eastern Mountain Sports and a self-described “India-phile,” comes in.

Moses, who is originally from South Africa and lives in Dublin, was introduced to Hardikar about four years ago when a mutual friend realized both men had a love for all things India. “We had a lot to talk about,” said Moses of their first meeting.

Moses is a frequent visitor to India and has been since 1981. As a yoga instructor and practitioner of meditation, Moses makes the trip yearly with 25 others for a spiritual pilgrimage. During his last trip this past December and January, Moses created a short video of the pilgrimage, which he happened to show to Hardikar one day this past spring.

Hardikar loved the video and asked Moses if he wanted to make one for the HEF to help spread the word about the non-profit’s work. Moses not only agreed, but was inspired to do more after hearing about Hardikar’s outdoor education idea.

For each photo shoot Moses does on location, the EMS gear he uses is sent back and put in storage, where it slowly accumulates over time. Moses saw an opportunity with Hardikar’s new project, and asked if the gear might be sent to India for an outdoor education program. EMS agreed.

“Everyone thought it was a great idea,” said Moses.

Now, thanks to the donation EMS’ made in July of “more than enough” backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, climbing ropes, warm jackets, clothing, first aid kits, and other items, the outdoor education program is possible. Hardikar has sent three large bagfuls of the equipment to India with friends over the past year, and he and Moses will be bringing over what’s left of the donation this month. Both leave on Oct. 8 for a month-long trip together.

Hardikar has several plans in place for his upcoming visit. Aside from working with the Himalaya Public School students on the outdoor education program, he will also spend some time with farmers in the region to get a greater understanding of day-to-day living. “I want to go beyond helping the school to helping the community,” Hardikar said.

Other projects Hardikar has lined up include collaborating on a dairy education program with Dr. Alice Pell of Cornell University and helping with a teacher training program in the area. Hardikar will also have a meeting with Moses and Jack Rose of Waves4Water, a non-profit that creates access to clean water all over the world by distributing water filters. Rose, who is currently in Rishikesh, India, to help with the aftermath of the June flooding, donated 40 filters for the HEF to use. “There are a lot of ideas from the outside world — you never know what will work,” Hardikar said.

Moses, who will be shooting the documentary for HEF and taking some photos for EMS while he visits, has been preparing for his trip mostly by figuring out the best way to make a good, short video for Hardikar and his non-profit. The biggest question Moses will be asking is, “Why should somebody do anything about a small, rural village on the other side of the world?”

Moses will be searching for an extremely relevant but difficult answer. To see what he and Hardikar find during their visit, look for an article upon their return from India. To learn more about the Himlaya Public School and the Himalayan Education Foundation in the meantime, visit www.himalayaneducation.org.

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