The Hoddesdon to Himalayas Project was the culmination of two years’ preparation with youngsters from two Hertfordshire schools working in an earthquake-ravaged village in Nepal before making a trek to the Mount Everest Base Camp.
“This has been a life-changing experience for us all,” explained Rotarian, John Hiscock.
“Our students and Rotarians have developed lasting community links, expanded personal horizons and benefited from doing good where it was seriously needed.”
The Rotary Club of Hoddesdon initiated this ambitious and challenging project, helping to raise £18,000 towards the cost of the adventure – with the students also pitching in by fundraising £750 without dipping into their parents’ bank accounts.
On the back of scaling Mount Kilimanjaro for charity, the then Hoddesdon Club President, David Johnston, was the driving force behind the project.
Our students and Rotarians have developed last community links, expanded personal horizons and benefited from doing good where it was seriously needed.”
He had watched a television programme about the highest classroom on earth, and wanted to support such a school in Nepal which has been damaged by the April 2015 earthquake.
It’s with a touch of irony that this inspirational programme was produced by BBC journalist and Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland Immediate Past President, Eve Conway, who had also been involved in putting together two other television packages about schools operating in hot and cold climates.
Working in partnership with the Kathmandu Mid-Town Rotary Club, they identified a school in the Nepalese capital which desperately needed help. Then an orphanage was identified and added to the project.
Six Hoddesdon Rotarians joined the students and teachers to decorate the Jana Sewa School and Shanti Orphanage, having brought with them 6,000 exercise books, other school items as well as 200kg of toys – and a computer!
“Conditions at the orphanage were desperate, and the environment outside was lunar,” added John.
“Many of the children at the orphanage were street kids, but when we arrived with these gifts, they were greeted with ecstasy by the Nepalese children, who brought tears to one or two seasoned Rotarian eyes.”
The Jana Sewa School had also been badly damaged by the earthquake. There they painted furniture and decorated 11 themed panels in a Wall of Friendship.
The work inside the orphanage was physical and demanding, as the team set to work on the four-floor building. They provided bedding for the children, plus a shoe box for each child containing gifts.
“The Shanti Orphanage was a great contrast, characterised by poor environment, poverty, dilapidation, street kids desperately short of material and psychological kindness,” said John.
Many of the children at the orphanage were street kids, but when we arrived with these gifts, we were greeted with ecstasy by the Nepalese children.”
“The need was clearly greater here. The human contact between us and the Nepalese children in the school and orphanage was hugely rewarding,” added John. “The bonding between all parties must have stood Rotary in very good stead – maybe it laid the foundations for future links with Rotary in Nepal continue.”
The project work was the key to the adventure which left an indelible impression on the Hertfordshire students and Rotarians, who completed their 19-day visit with a trek to Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet above sea level.
Twenty one of the 22 members of the party reached their destination, despite problems with digestion, altitude and exhaustion. John was airlifted from Everest at 11,300 feet with a calf tear. “I am a hill walker, but this was the steepest, protracted climbing ever, complete with wonderful scenery and company.
“The team kept in touch daily and we even managed a live link to Hoddesdon Club during their Monday lunch meeting.”