SWAMY KARNAM, Director & Co-Founder
Hello, I am a avid walker since early childhood. As a young boy of about 10 years old, I walked from my village in India to some distant mountains only to reach the foothills by dusk. I had to turn around but the mountains have always been calling me. A few years after that my cousins from the U.S. visited us and took us to Darjeeling. As a kid, we didn’t go many places for vacations so this was my Disney Land. I was very impressed by all the high peaks, snow, fog, the Sherpas, the people. This was the fire that was lit in me to go to the top of snowy mountains everywhere, travel the world and meet interesting people and culture. At the same time, I was struck by how hard life is for people in the mountains. Fast forward a few decades and I have climbed 3 of the 7 summits (highest peaks on each planet) – Kilimanjaro in Africa, Denali in North America and Aconcagua in South America. Along the way I also met a lot of local indigenous people. I wanted to help them but was not sure how. I found a few projects on Kickstarter that were oriented towards mountain communities and did pledge for them and got to know more about non-profits and fundraising. As as I was planning to go to K2, the guide service asked to help the school they had set up. I felt that I could help not just them, but other communities by setting up a non-profit. When I am not dreaming about travel, mountains, photography, meeting people I work as a software tester at FireEye. I have been lucky in that the people of FireEye share my passion for the outdoors and giving back to the community.
MARINEL DE JESUS, Director & Co-Founder
The truth is I’m an island girl, raised in the chaotic city of Manila in the Philippines. I lived there until I was 13 at which time my parents sacrificed for us and moved the family (except for my oldest brother who was too old to migrate) to Seattle, WA in the U.S. All I focused on then was how to survive and have a better life because witnessing poverty and knowing that my family was always on the verge of financial hardship, I was compelled to never take for granted my being here in America. So, I studied hard and graduated. I did become something after all; but at the same time, in my 20s I realized life is not all about just becoming someone successful in her career. I first discovered my love for traveling when I went to Guatemala where I soon traded my suitcase for a backpack. I realized that no matter how long I have been in America, I remain connected to my past. Guatemala was the starting point of going back to the essence of life – simplicity, sense of community and connection with nature. There I discovered my first taste of real hiking as I was lured by the volcanoes. Though I continued to travel and sightsee without much serious hiking, it was when I started hiking more in the D.C. area that I realized my love for trekking outdoors. I soon started organizing hikes, camping and backpacking trips locally but because I have been drawn to traveling globally, I knew I had to organize treks overseas. Almost a decade later, I’m still organizing people to trek overseas. To date, I have been fortunate to have shared trekking/traveling experiences with people from all walks of life in various countries worldwide – New Zealand, Nepal, India, Mongolia, Philippines, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela, Argentina, Tibet, Switzerland, France, Italy, South Africa, Bolivia, Chile, Panama, among a few others. I am also an avid solo trekker when not with the outdoor groups and a fan of solitude. My recent sabbatical from my career allowed me to reflect on where to take my passion for mountain trekking. Growing up in a poor country, the years I spent trekking in developing countries like Nepal, Indonesia, Peru, and China have always left me disturbed by the lack of income and support for many of the mountain regions frequented by climbers/hikers. It was in my last visit to Nepal that I decided to become more involved in projects that would help locals in these poverty-stricken mountain areas. As I have prior experience working with non-profit organizations and with my social work and law background, I knew that this endeavor was inevitably going to take shape. Over the years, I also developed friendships with many of the local trekking operators that I organized my trekking trips with and it became evident that they themselves act as my resources to support the locals in mountain regions. TWB will only expand further what I am already implementing on an informal basis – efforts to promote mountain trekking globally and supporting the locals through tourism and social projects. Having said that, I must say with so much passion for the mountains, I do still appreciate the beach, nonetheless, that is, if there was ever time for it! When I’m not trekking up a mountain or organizing treks for that matter, I’m usually blogging away, practicing to be a decent yogi, meditating, dancing, tuning into my favorite bands, enhancing my skills in photography, volunteering/teaching English, or arguing away at my regular job as a lawyer. I know that’s a handful but when I’m in the mountains, all of these make sense… really!