Exactly one year ago we were moored up in British Harbour in Antigua awkwardly rubbing bumpers with the megayacht Icon and preparing for a Caribbean Christmas. A week later we were anchored in St. Barts amidst a full armada of megayachts watching the world’s rich and famous enjoy perhaps the most expensive New Years party in human history (Roman Abramovich spends $5 million on the annual event). We expect the exact same spectacle is now repeating there at the Gustavia Marina as we type this…. the decks are bleached, the helicopters serviced, the champagne lockers full, and the fireworks staged.
The situation in Nepal is shockingly different and difficult to reconcile with what’s now happening in the Caribbean. Here, in a place where basic human needs like shelter, food, and health services are often lacking, it’s the absurd poverty that boggles the mind. To put the situation into perspective, the GDP of Nepal ($19b), a country of 27 million people, is just twice that of Roman Abramovich’s own personal $10 billion net worth. Perhaps even more surprisingly, his $10 billion fortune still isn’t enough to earn him a spot on the Forbes 100 list of richest billionaires. And although mostly everyone agrees the world’s growing wealth polarity is one of the most serious problems of modern times, major debate remains on the critical questions surrounding it. Why the world turned out this way, who’s to blame (if anyone), and what to do about it are some of the questions that have no clear answers, and that’s what makes the situation so difficult to deal with.
But asking “what to do about it” might be a more productive question than the others, which most often lead to divisiveness, political argument, and no meaningful action. That’s the non-political view, anyway, of some people trying to address these poverty related problems, and it’s the view we subscribe to. This is what brings us to Nepal, where Focusing Philanthropy, a Los Angeles based non-profit, is trying to answer this critical question of “what to do”. Specifically, they’re trying to find charities around the world that can use new donations to achieve the greatest possible social impact, and they make big investments in research and due diligence as they search for answers. The founding family supports the charities with the greatest impact and Focusing Philanthropy then publishes its findings so other philanthropically minded donors can add their support. It’s a program we’re proud to be involved with and will continue to support on our voyage and beyond.
So that’s what brought Larry and Elliott (from FP’s founding family) to Nepal a couple of weeks ago and it’s mostly what will keep Elliott and I busy in this part of the world for the next few weeks. But for the past few days we’ve successfully kept ourselves distracted from the world’s problems by Nepal’s most famous feature, the Himalayan mountain range. We’ve been hiking through the Annapurna region along the Mardi Himal Trail, and even though the three of us are fairly experienced trekkers, we’ve been in stupefied awe each step of the way. It’s partially because of the scenery, partially because of the people we found along the trail, and partially just knowing we’re in the shadow of the world’s tallest alpine peaks. Whatever the reason, we’re still speechless about the experience and will need to let the photos do the talking until we can catch our breath.
Today we recoup, catch up with emails, and clean ourselves up after six days without a shower or internet connection (poor us). Tomorrow we begin a week’s worth of site visits here in Nepal before heading to India just a short hop away. But for now…. sleeping time zzzzz.