Fabulous Trekking Opportunity turned Ethical Dilemma
Today I’ve been researching some Nepalese Trekking organizations in the hopes of finding one that is taking positive strides in sustainable tourism (sustaining culture, history, the environment and traditions). After reading a great article about geotourism I discovered 3 Sister’s Adventure Trekking Nepal.
I was floored by the company. From their website and their rating with National Geographic they seemed like the perfect fit. The company is run by women and they work to train other Nepalese women to be porters for trekking tourists. These women are trained in something practical that they can earn money at and support their families and themselves. The porters are treated incredibly well and they take steps to make sure they are making positive ecological decisions along the trail. Sounds perfect, right? Here’s a video to prove it!
But after a little further research I found this article. After a few years of business the Three Sisters joined with Empowering Women of Nepal. They began taking in orphans and collecting funds to help the children along with their porters–or so it seemed. According to this article, one couple found that their practices were something other than savory. They report that the children are not fed consistently and their living conditions are below average. The article suggests that they are using the funds intended for the children to benefit their porters.
So they’re still using the money for a positive thing–the porters–if this is true, but the orphans are being neglected because of their social status. On the other hand, I don’t really have any kind of grasp of Nepalese culture and I realize that social status has a different meaning in Nepal than it does in the US. That it is acceptable to let it dictate behavior in a more extreme way.
What I can’t wrap my head around is giving money to a corporation that I suspect might be doing something dishonest with the money, a corporation that has unsafe practices that risk child welfare. But it’s hard to know whether these claims are even substantiated and what they are doing for female porters is absolutely incredible, without-a-doubt.
I don’t know how I would feel about giving them my business. What mentality would I go into it with? Ignorance is bliss? I guess it’s a necessary evil? Or would I just try to go into it without pre-judging the company and hoping for the best from them?
What would you do?