Steamboat nonprofit educates girls, opens horizons in a remote village in Nepal

Tom Ross

Mingma Doma Sherpa is one of the girls studying at the Mt. Everest Boarding School with a scholarship from the Maya Sherpa Project based in Steamboat Springs.

If you go:

What: A short documentary film by Jordan Hansen followed by a community discussion about the Maya Sherpa Project, a Steamboat-based nonprofit that aspires to provide education for Nepalese girls in the town of Mera in the Everest District

When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31

Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs


STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs residents, curious about the growing relationship between this mountain town and another 7,688 miles away in the Everest District of Nepal, may want to attend the Jan. 31 screening of a short documentary about the locally-based Maya Sherpa Project and its efforts to educate more Nepalese girls from a remote village.

Steamboat resident Pattie Moon made her first trip to Nepal in 2009 after forming a friendship with a Fort Collins family from Fort Collins, Dawa Sherpa and his wife, Sharon Lowe, and their daughter Maya Sherpa, now 16.

As an 8-year-old in 2009, “Maya wanted to do something for the children of Nepal,” Moon recalled. “It was a simple request from a little girl.”

Together with another Steamboat resident and Moon’s adult son Alex, they started a nonprofit in Maya’s name and set out to create more opportunities, specifically for girls in the village of  Mera, which is home to a teaching monastery.

Moon explained that the exceedingly happy Nepalese people, who seem to have no ego whatsoever and are very giving, are also a delight to be around

“This is an extraordinary group of people to live with,” Moon said. “They have this great sense of compassion and respect, and they believe in extending it to everybody in the world. That’s the whole Buddhist thing. As much as we may give them, whether education or healthcare, they give back more.”

Yet, they are bound up in a tribal society, and with limited income, if there is any money to educate their children, it goes to the boys in the family. Headmaster of the Mt. Everest Boarding School, Mohan Chand, who appears in the documentary film, believes it should be otherwise.

“We have to bring the girls and the boys up to the same bar,” he said. “Previously, the girls were downtrodden, they thought only to do the house work, to look after the farm house. More responsibilities were given to the men.

“For the development of our country, males and females is very important,” Chand explained. “They should be empowered.”

Women in the mountains of Nepal have always been regarded as being equals to men, Moon said, and do have important business roles to play. It is they who run tea houses and guest lodgings. The Sherpa men go into the mountains to carry loads and guide for climbing expeditions.

Because the men are away from the home, Moon believes, there is more logic to educating the girls.

“If you educate a boy, you educate a person,” she said. “If you educate a girl, you educate a village.”

The Maya Sherpa Project is currently providing education at the Mt. Everest Boarding School for some of the Mera girls for about $50 a month.

“We have five girls on scholarship now, and we’re hoping to add five to 10 more,” Moon said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

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