NOOSA TO BHUTAN AND ANOTHER WORLD
Heather McNeice spoke to Caitlin Zerafa about her mission to empower women
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.”
Heather McNeice in the cold, rugged landscapes of Bhutan.