Our Story

The dZi Foundation was founded in 1998 by longtime mountaineers Jim Nowak and Kim Reynolds. While leading a trek in Nepal, Jim and Kim encountered a safe house for girls that was failing financially. After returning to the US, they organized dZi’s first fundraising effort — an expedition to climb a new route on the Himalayan peak, Pumori. dZi pledged to support the girls in the safe house until they had graduated from college or received vocational training – a promise that dZi kept over the next two decades.

For nine years, dZi ran a wide range of programs across Nepal, Ladakh, and Sikkhim. In 2007, after partnering with a local organization in Nepal - Porters Progress - and learning about the critical need for support in the isolated region of Eastern Nepal where many porters in the Khumbu Vally came from, dZi narrowed its focus and work. This region, which at the time was a seven-day’s walk from the nearest road, had little to no government support or outside aid organizations working there. There was a critical need for investment in infrastructure and public health, such as toilets, nutrition, and food security.

As Nepal’s Civil War ended, dZi began to reimagine the best way to serve these communities and scaled back its other work to have the most impact in Nepal. dZi believed that communities knew what they needed most, they just needed the resources and technical skills to achieve their vision. With this philosophy in mind, dZi’s community-led Deep Development model was born. Since then, dZi has worked with communities in this region to develop a shared long-term vision, implement effective education, health, and livelihoods programs, and to build local capacity to keep the work going after dZi leaves.

Today, dZi serves over 45,000 people in a network of 15 villages in the Solukhumbu, Bhojpur, and Khotang districts of Eastern Nepal. dZi has offices in the US, the UK, and Nepal. Our Nepal office, with an all-Nepali team, handles program implementation, strategy, and community partnerships. Our US team oversees dZiʼs fundraising and finances. dZi UK's fundraising efforts directly support dZi’s programs in Nepal.

Our Name

Our mission is embodied in our name. The name dZi (pronounced ‘zee’) comes from ancient Himalayan etched beads that bestow health and prosperity upon the wearer.

Our Logo

The dZi Foundation’s logo reflects the color and complexity of a marigold wreath. Marigold wreaths are often given to visitors to mark their arrival in a community – an auspicious occasion to be celebrated. Welcome to dZi, we’re glad you’re here.