Brothers George and Alex Hillary – grandsons of Mt Everest hero Sir Edmund Hillary – have appealed for help for the victims of Nepal’s earthquake tragedy.
RMIT students, George, 23, and Alex, 18, fear the crisis could dramatically escalate into a preventable catastrophe without urgent foreign aid.
“Without foreign help and funding from generous Australians, the people of Nepal stand to suffer greater loss of life and hardship,’’ George said.
George, who is studying his Master of Business (Management), and younger brother Alex, an industrial design student who lives at RMIT Village, have both followed in the footsteps of their famous grandfather Edmund and father Peter by trekking to the Everest Base Camp.
And they continue to share an emotional link to their late grandfather through their mutual support of the Australian Himalayan Foundation, of which their father Peter remains an active Director.
“There is a really important connection between Nepal and our family and we have a responsibility to keep that connection alive through our ongoing support of the Foundation,’’ George said.
“When I was there climbing with my father last year, the people of Nepal were saying they believed Edmund is still looking down on them from above.
“The Nepalese loved our grandfather and also our father and we urge Australians to reach out to help them in this desperate time of need.’’
As many as 7000 people have died and another 14,000 injured in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake which has also triggered landslides, avalanches and aftershocks last week.
An estimated eight million people have been affected and a million children are said to be in urgent need of help following the natural disaster.
“Scenes in the aftermath of the earthquake show chaos over there and it is not a country equipped to deal with a disaster of this scale.
“Power is bad enough in normal circumstances so the loss of utilities and extremely intermittent phone reception is hampering the rescue efforts,’’ George said.
Their own father Peter was among a group of climbers caught up in the disaster.
He was leading a group of 12 on a trek to raise money for a new water system in the village of Lukla, known to climbers for the airstrip built by Sir Edmund as the aviation access to the Everest region.
“Dad has been involved in situations before, so we weren’t too worried about him but phone reception has been very intermittent. We finally spoke to him on a satellite phone,’’ George said.
Alex said Sir Edmund is known globally as the courageous and all-conquering mountaineer who became the first to reach the world’s tallest peak on May 29, 1953, alongside Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
“But within Nepal itself, he is greatly loved for his many achievements within the country, for his work in helping build hospitals and schools.
“The climb opened so many opportunities for Ed that he forever loved the people of Nepal as well as the region and his legacy has been an enduring and lasting one.’’
The Hillary brothers said images of chaos in Nepal following the earthquake revealed the heartbreak and hardship for the locals as well as the thousands of adventurous foreigners who travel to the country for the dangerous climbing season each year.
“Without foreign aid and assistance, the death and crisis could turn in to a much bigger catastrophe.’’
While the Hillary family remains forever linked to Everest, the brothers revealed a strong connection with RMIT dating back more than a decade when the University’s staff and students built the 2.5m sled that Peter Hillary used to haul his food and equipment during a two-month expedition in Antarctica.
“We still have that sled at home in the garage in Auckland, I remember playing on it as a kid,’’ Alex said.
Despite their study loads, both men are intrepid adventurers, following the ground-breaking paths of their forefathers.
George trekked the Everest Base Camp with their father last year, while Alex is planning to join another of his expeditions to Antarctica next year.
Australian Himalayan Foundation General Manager Carolyn Hamer-Smith said the organisation was proud to partner with George and Alex Hillary to support the earthquake relief.
“The Australian Himalayan Foundation has been in Nepal more than 10 years, delivering practical education and health programs in mountain communities, including vital assistance to over 300 schools,’’ Ms Hamer-Smith said.
“It is now working with its team on the ground to provide effective relief and recovery assistance to children, families and schools affected by the earthquake getting the most critical supplies and help to these remote communities.’’
RMIT has backed calls for donations to the appeal. Donations may be made through The Australian Himalayan Foundation.
The RMIT Campus Store will host a Red Cross Pop-Up shop raising funds for Nepal from 11 May to 8 June.