NOOSA TO BHUTAN AND AN­OTHER WORLD

Heather McNe­ice spoke to Caitlin Zer­afa about her mis­sion to em­power women

Noosa Life and Style - - HOME & LIFESTYLE -

HELP­ING im­prove the lives of young Bhutanese women is some­thing one Noosa mother is pas­sion­ate about.

A desire to travel to off-the-beaten-track des­ti­na­tions pre­sented an eye-open­ing op­por­tu­nity to raise money for ed­u­ca­tion and board­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion for many liv­ing in re­mote Bhutanese com­mu­ni­ties.

And now, so­lic­i­tor, trav­eller, trek-en­thu­si­ast and mother of three, Heather McNe­ice can also add au­thor to her list of achieve­ments, with her re­cently re­leased me­moir Yak on Track.

“I came to Aus­tralia from the UK in 2006 with my hus­band and three chil­dren,” Heather said.

“I al­ways wanted to go to Bhutan and couldn’t find any­one who was in­ter­ested in go­ing, so in 2010 I went with my daugh­ter, Molly, who was 11 at the time.

“On that trip we came to a lit­tle ru­ral school, a pri­mary school, and went and chat­ted to some of the kids, had a look at the class­rooms,” she said.

It was af­ter that a friend put her in touch with the Aus­tralian Hi­malayan Foun­da­tion, a Syd­ney-based char­ity work­ing on health, ed­u­ca­tion and con­ser­va­tion projects in the Hi­malayas.

In 2011, Heather de­cided to do a 100km trek to raise money for the foun­da­tion to dis­trib­ute to the or­gan­i­sa­tion RE­NEW Bhutan.

“Most peo­ple spon­sored $100, at a dol­lar a kilo­me­tre, and we raised about $12,000 that year,” she said.

Es­tab­lished by the Bhutanese Queen Mother in 2004, RE­NEW stands for Re­spect, Ed­u­cate, Nur­ture and Em­power Women and was set up to be a voice for vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Since then, Heather has led a trekking group ev­ery year and in Oc­to­ber will tackle a 140km trek to the base of Gangkhar Puen­sum, the high­est un­climbed moun­tain in the world.

“All up, we have raised about $230,000 so far.” To pre­pare for her treks, Heather does a lot of walk­ing but said noth­ing could pre­pare you for the al­ti­tude and weather con­di­tions over there.

“What do I like the best about Bhutan? It’s serene, it feels very safe and the scenery is stun­ning.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Heather McNe­ice in the cold, rugged land­scapes of Bhutan.

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