Dilip Kulung is a committed social activist who has been working the past 12 years to empower his people, the Kulung.
He was born and raised in Chheskam in Eastern Nepal, a village just a few kilometres south of Mount Everest in the territory called the Mahakulung.
The Mahakulung is geographically one of the most beautiful places in the world – perched at the earth’s summit – but is also the ancestral home of the Kulung people who are a hidden and marginalised Nepalese ethnic group who are not yet legally recognised by the Nepalese government.
The Makakulung encompasses the Hongu valley in the Lower Everest region, comprising of the Gudel, Chheskam, Bung and Sotang villages, and is home to more than 21,000 people. Twice a year for the bi-annual trekking season, the Kulung leave their homes for up to three months during March – May and September – November to work as porters, cooks, house workers and vendors to support the Everest trekking industry.
“The Kulung are physically capable of carrying large loads – nearly as much their own body weight – on their backs at high altitudes. They also typically do domestic work in different hotels on the way to Everest Basecamp and run small trades on the same trail to Everest.”
They do as much as 80% of the labour in the Everest region, but have not been rewarded with increased affluence or livelihoods.
Instead, they live in the shadows of Everest and the recent earthquakes, which almost wiped these villages off the map, have proven this even more so to be true.
“My people live a simple life. We live in a remote and highly isolated area away from the rest of the world and are not accessible by road. It can take some two days to reach our villages,” explained Dilip.
“We are the major pillar for Everest tourism industry, but unfortunately, we are treated as the mountain’s slave,” Dilip explained.
“We face many challenges including high rates of poverty, vast unemployment, an unproductive farming system, a poor education set up, environmental threats and unsatisfactory healthcare. Despite all the difficulties though, we live from a place of peace, harmony and mutual respect.”
“It’s one of the characteristics that sets us apart actually,” Dilip added. “We are positive in the face of adversity, smiling despite our troubles.”
The Kulung people are the most primordial indigenous group in the country.
“We have a separate language, our own traditions and cultural attires, a distinct social structure and lifestyle, and our kindness to others sets us apart. The Nepalese government has not yet formally acknowledged our indigenous status but our lobbying efforts are getting us closer,” he encouraged.
Earnestly campaigning and advocating for social change with and on behalf of his community, Dilip is currently working to provide urgent temporary shelter to the thousands of homeless families in the Lower Everest region following the twin earthquakes, which destroyed their homes.
“The monsoon season is almost here and the threat of avalanches, landslides and more aftershocks is very likely in the coming months.”
“Under the collective leadership of more than 250 young volunteers, we are planning for the future. We are working to develop sustainable and shock resistant infrastructure across the region to withstand any future threat of a natural disaster.”
“During recent years, we have successfully produced 45 kilowatt of electricity, erected a telephone tower, built taps with drinkable water and additional classrooms in our schools.”
Carrying Everest is a film about the Kulung people of Eastern Nepal. Despite being one of Nepal’s most sidelined and disadvantaged communities, they are also some of the most courageous and gifted people. Carrying Everest will tell their story.
Dilip explained what this film means to the Kulung.
“This film is a first for the Kulung. It will provide us with an opportunity to be truly heard; our voices, our lives, our perspectives. It is my hope that people from all corners of the world will feel compelled to support the Kulung and improve the quality of our current living situation. We have big hearts and much talent, but in the shadow of Everest, we remain unseen.”