IMPACT in Nepal: A Colorado Instructor Empowers Female Mountain Guides

Impact Instructor Sandra Carter in Nepal

By Micah Pilkington

In 2016, “I went to Nepal knowing that I wanted to become a social worker,” said IMPACT Personal Safety of Colorado assistant instructor Sandra Carter, “but I came back knowing that I could do more.” Her journey included teaching IMPACT skills to women and girls. In 2020, she’ll return to Nepal to continue this work.  

In addition to teaching at IMPACT and her career as a direct-care counselor for homeless youth, Sandra is an experienced outdoor educator. During her first nine-month trip through Nepal, she taught IMPACT self-defense techniques to girls and women in villages along the route and the city of Pokhara.

Training female mountain-trekking and climbing guides with Take on Nepal

She also met Som Tamang, founder of Take on Nepal, and told him about her experience as an adventure guide in the United States. Take on Nepal offers visitors an authentic Nepalese cultural experience while giving local villagers employment, training and education. When Tamang asked Sandra to train Take on Nepal guides from the village to become climbing and mountain-trekking guides,“I was humbled and so excited,” she said.

Working as a mountain guide is one of the “best-paying jobs in Nepal,” but “most guides and porters are male,” Sandra said. Nepalese women and girls must also contend with cultural gender bias. If a woman is sexually assaulted, “No one will do anything because they are women and it is seen as their fault.”

Many women who work for Take on Nepal are survivors of sex trafficking or forced marriage. “We came up with the idea of tying these trainings to the problem of human trafficking that is going on in Nepal,” said Sandra.

Because a mountain guide’s income can provide lifelong support to their families, expanding career opportunities for women and girls reduces the likelihood of human-rights abuses. “Hopefully in the future, we will be training the girls in the villages so they will not be sold into sex slavery,” said Sandra.

More guides will learn IMPACT skills on the women-only 2020 Expedition

In May 2020, she returns to Nepal to serve as a leader and trainer for the 2020 Expedition, a 21-day, women-only climb up Island Peak in partnership with Take on Nepal. Clients on the journey led by Sandra and Som Tamang will visit Everest Base Camp, Gokyo Lakes and the Three Passes.

Sandra will train the young female porters on her staff in climbing techniques, rescues, first aid, and other mountaineering skills. To help them feel confident and safe as they learn to be guides, she’ll also teach the women IMPACT skills including “awareness, listening to their intuition, [and] some of the physical moves,” she said. “But most of all, empowerment!”  

Clients visiting Nepal on Sandra’s expedition will learn more than mountaineering as well. “The other hope I have for this expedition is that it will help bring more people into these remote villages and educate them about the very real threat of human trafficking here,” she concluded.

Carter started a fundraising campaign to cover her trainee’s expenses.  If you’d like to support them, make a contribution to the Expedition 2020 GoFundMe.