Nepal hike helps for­got­ten sher­pas

Walking New Zealand - - Overseas Walk - By Jill Wor­rall

Travel that brings ben­e­fit to not just our­selves but to oth­ers is a con­cept that’s grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity How­ever, some­times find­ing an over­seas pro­ject that is eth­i­cal, sus­tain­able and where your money re­ally is go­ing to do some good is not so easy to find.

Next year, the South Can­ter­bury-based For­got­ten Sher­pas of Nepal Trust, which has been as­sist­ing in devel­op­ment work in the Mid­dle Hills of Nepal for eight years, is aim­ing to give keen trek- kers a chance to con­trib­ute to projects that tick all those boxes.

The Trust, with the help of Jill Wor­rall Tours, is of­fer­ing a 21-day tour to Nepal, in­clud­ing a 17-day trek into the Da­mar Re­gion that will not only boost funds for the trust’s work but pro­vide par­tic­i­pants with some stun­ning Hi­malayan trekking in a re­gion lit­tle vis­ited by other trav­ellers.

The trekking group is lim­ited to just 15 par­tic­i­pants. “We hope to raise at

least $5000 for Trust projects,” ex­plains trustee Colleen Win­ning­ton. “Since we be­gan work in the area in co-op­er­a­tion with the lo­cal Sherpa com­mu­ni­ties, we’ve in­stalled so­lar light­ing, wa­ter sup­plies, smoke­less stoves, school sup­port and health ser­vices.

We want to keep the mo­men­tum go­ing, es­pe­cially as more and more vil­lages in the area are ask­ing for help.” Jill Wor­rall, who op­er­ates tours in con­junc­tion with House of Travel, Ric­car­ton (Christchurch), is do­nat­ing tour profits to the Trust and is hop­ing that the trek par­tic­i­pants will also be en­cour­aged to con­trib­ute in some way too, as well as come home to spread the word about the Trust’s work.

“I’ve known about the Trust work for many years now and, as a for­mer Save the Chil­dren board mem­ber who has worked on short-term projects for both Save the Chil­dren and for the Aga Khan Devel­op­ment Fund, I have gained valu­able in­sights into what con­sti­tutes good devel­op­ment projects.

“Key fea­tures are that the com­mu­ni­ties them­selves de­ter­mine what as­sis­tance they need; that they are fully in­volved in the work and can then sus­tain the de­vel­op­ments when the over­seas helpers have gone home. I think the For­got­ten Sher­pas Trust meets these cri­te­ria very well.”

The tour, from Septem­ber 23 to Oc­to­ber 14, 2019, is priced at just $7295 (twin- share) and in­cludes flights from Christchurch, four nights in Kathmandu, the trek (with all meals and full trekking staff), all tip­ping and is fully es­corted from NZ by Jill’s son, Jonathan, a para­medic and for­mer glacier guide, who has trav­elled with Jill to the Hi­malayan king­dom of Bhutan.

The Trust sprang from a friend­ship forged between trekking guide Ngima Sherpa and Ge­orge Hunter, a mem­ber of a Geral­dine tramp­ing club ex­pe­di­tion around the An­na­purna Cir­cuit in Nepal in 2001.

Since form­ing the trust in 2010, club mem­bers, along with their af­fil­i­ates and the wider South Can­ter­bury com­mu­nity, have worked on nu­mer­ous projects in con­junc­tion with Sher­pas in Ngima’s home vil­lage of Da­mar and sur­round­ing vil­lages in the Mid­dle Hills.

It’s been a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for many trust mem­bers and forged un­break­able bonds between South Can­ter­bury and these re­mote Nepalese com­mu­ni­ties.

A three-day walk from the near­est road or airstrip at that time, (a new 4WD track has re­duced this to a 12-hour walk), Da­mar and the peo­ple of the sur­round­ing area, which is off the tourist routes, miss out on the money that floods into the Ever­est and An­na­purna re­gions.

Life was hard for the peo­ple here - they had no ac­cess to elec­tric­ity or even to a re­li­able sup­ply of clean wa­ter. Their houses were dark, smoky (there were no chim­neys) and full of toxic fumes from kerosene lamps.

Child mor­tal­ity was high and gas­tric and res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses were rife.

It was Ngima Sherpa who ap­proached Ge­orge back in 2008 to see if he and his tramp­ing club mem­bers could raise money to in­stall so­lar lights in the vil­lage. Club mem­bers ar­rived in the vil­lage in 2010 to fit the lights, af­ter the Geral­dine com­mu­nity had ral­lied around and suc­cess­fully raised the nec­es­sary funds for the equip­ment (with club mem­bers pay­ing their own way to travel to Nepal).

Since then the For­got­ten Sher­pas Trust has in­stalled a 4000-litre stor­age tank to pro­vide stand­pipes with clean wa­ter out­side each vil­lage house; run health clin­ics; as­sisted in the lo­cal schools with books, equip­ment, cloth­ing and train­ing and most re­cently es­tab­lished a mo­bile health ser­vice con­sist­ing of five Nepalese health pro­fes­sion­als who make reg­u­lar vis­its to vil­lages in the Da­mar area.

In the early days of the trust, trus­tees Colleen Win­ning­ton and Marg Stocker, trekked into Da­mar to learn first-hand what vil­lages needed most.

“It was a huge cul­ture shock,” re­calls Colleen “but it was also a real priv­i­lege to be there.” Marg was equally shaken by the de­gree of need in the vil­lage.

Marg, a re­tired phle­botomist, and Colleen, an in­ten­sive care nurse, re­counted the health prob­lems they saw among the vil­lagers, in­clud­ing sca­bies, im­petigo, eye prob­lems, mal­nu­tri­tion and ul­cers. Any projects un­der­taken by the Trust are dis­cussed with the vil­lagers – it’s their call as to what projects are car­ried out. They also help with the work, such as in­stal­la­tion of the so­lar- light­ing, wa­ter tank and pipes.

The Trust also takes great care to be mind­ful of cul­tural val­ues and be­liefs with all that they do. Ge­orge, Colleen and Marg have all noted changes in the out­look of the peo­ple them­selves since the NZ and Nepalese com­mu­ni­ties be­gan their part­ner­ship.

“There’s a lighter at­mos­phere,” Colleen says “you hear mu­sic, peo­ple have cell­phones now so can com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple out­side their area. The vil­lage is cleaner, the peo­ple health­ier, com­mu­ni­ca­tion in English (a vi­tal tool for young­sters look­ing for work in tourism) has im­proved.

The Trust is jus­ti­fi­ably proud of what has been achieved to­gether with the peo­ple of Da­mar and the other vil­lages but they are not rest­ing on their lau­rels. The newly es­tab­lished mo­bile health ser­vice is pro­vid­ing health care to vil­lages in the wider geo­graph­i­cal area around Da­mar and plan­ning is un­der way to trial im­proved mod­els of smoke-free fire­boxes and chim­neys for vil­lage houses.

The trust es­ti­mates that their projects are now reach­ing up to 5000 peo­ple in over 25 vil­lages. Trust mem­bers re­turn reg­u­larly to Nepal for ex­tended pe­ri­ods, co-or­di­nat­ing projects and work­ing with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties on new ini­tia­tives.

“You can’t help your­self be­cause the peo­ple there are so won­der­ful – they’ve be­come a sec­ond fam­ily to us,” says Colleen.

Above right: Happy vil­l­lage kids. Be­low left: Colour­ful flags. Be­low right: Par­wati in­spect­ing child.

Above left: Sun­rise over the Hi­malayas. Above right: Nepalise woman with baby. Be­low left: In­stalling so­lar panels on a house.

Above right: A Nepal house with a view.

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