Mingma Sherpa was amongst seven WWF staff members who died in a tragic helicopter crash in the mountains of far-east Nepal in September 2006. His untimely death was a great loss to Nepal and to the world of conservation. Mingma was WWF’s Managing Director of the Eastern Himalayas Programme and dedicated much of his life to protecting the natural environment of the region. He and his WWF colleagues had just participated in a ceremony handing over the management of the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area to local communities – a major milestone achieved after years of work to protect this area of outstanding natural beauty – when the helicopter crashed killing all 24 passengers on board.
The mountaineering community held Mingma in high regard and this led to a desire to honor his memory by establishing a fund as a living memorial which would recognize the tremendous loss of leadership.
The Mingma Norbu Sherpa Memorial Fund was launched on Sunday, 23 September 2007, the first anniversary of Mingma’s death. The purpose of the fund is to give young conservation leaders from Nepal the opportunity to follow in Mingma’s footsteps and continue his life’s work, by supporting their post-graduate studies at Lincoln University – where Mingma studied after attending one of Sir Edmund Hillary’s first schools in Nepal.
Speaking on the eve of the anniversary of Mingma’s death, the late Sir Edmund Hillary said: “As we approach the anniversary of the accident, we are determined to make the Mingma Norbu Sherpa Memorial Fund a reality, and we are seeking support to establish the fund so that the first scholarship can be awarded this year. This will help ensure that Mingma’s inspirational leadership of conservation management in Nepal continues. It will also celebrate Mingma’s life, his work and the special bond he helped create between his beloved Nepal and New Zealand.”
Lincoln University is committed to contributing a post-graduate fees scholarship for up to ten years from 2008 and the Himalayan Trust have made airfares available so that the first two students can commence their studies in February 2008.
Scholarship recipients were sought in Nepal through advertisements in the local newspaper, announcements, and email distributions. Shortlisted candidates were then called in for an interview with the Selection Committee Panel which consisted of Lincoln University graduates, representative of WWF Nepal, Himalayan Trust, The Mountain Institute, close family friends, and Mingma's daughter Dawa Sherpa.
One of the candidates selected as the 2008-2010 scholarship recipient for this award is Ms. Anu Lama. Ms. Lama is interested in pursuing the Masters in Parks and Recreation Tourism at Lincoln University, New Zealand. The selection committee was very impressed with Ms. Lama's biodata and work experiences, as well as her interview. She is currently working with the Nepal government's Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), the first and largest conservation area in Nepal - a project for which Mingma became principal investigator, and then director.
"It is a great honor and like a dream come true, to be one of the first two recipients of the Mingma Norbu Sherpa Memorial Scholarship. This is because I have a deep passion for conservation and development issues and have been professionally linked with the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) – a pioneer conservation organization, promoting participatory approach to sustainable protected area management, designed and developed by one of the great conservation leader of all time, the Late Mingma Norbu Sherpa.
By being involved in this course and through experiential learning and professional networks I aspire to improve my knowledge and develop expertise to become a promising next generation woman conservation leader of Nepal and follow his footsteps to invigorate the legacy left behind by the great leader himself in the field of protected area management." - Anu Lama