Re-building Nepal with ACCF
In 2017, Julie Weston joined Team Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF) on a journey to Nepal to help re-build the schools damaged by the earthquake. During the trip, she discovered there was a need for a women's screening clinic in a village called Tamang and she went about organising it. It will become a reality in April 2019 when we embark on a Charity Challenge to Nepal to help set up the first ever women's screening clinic in Tamang. This is her story.
“Nepal is my favourite place on earth. On top of the Himalayas, it's just magic and it's so amazing to be able to bring people here to see what I've seen before but each time it gets even better.” – Julie
Day 4: Time stands still in the mountains
I feel like I’ve gone into a time warp. I can hardly believe it, I’m sitting in paradise. Albeit – paradise has lots of horse or donkey or cow poo in abundance!
I think tomorrow is our last day of trekking and then we go to our school for 3 nights camping. Today was amazing… After our tea and warm washing water, we packed up our gear and headed off to the tea house dining room for breakfast.
For breakfast, we enjoyed some delicious porridge, toast, omelet and tea. Yum! We were full and ready for a good morning trek. Outside it was crisp, clear, cold and gorgeous! We could see the Langtang Nuru Mountain to one side and Ganesh (holy mountain) to the other.
We began our slow descent down the mountain. It was really tough going down but spectacular. On these trails in Tamang/Langtang region, there is virtually no one else on the trek. To date, we only have met one guide, one trekker and some yak herders.
When we arrived at camp after about a 4 hour climb down, our wonderful cook had lunch ready. It was amazing sitting outside in the sun eating a delicious meal of spicy potatoes, cauliflower and vegetables, fresh chapatti and a tuna curry.
The afternoon has been spent chilling out, washing with lovely warm water and writing my journal. It’s afternoon tea time now and perhaps some UNO?
Day 6 – Re-build Nepal day
We had a good dry night in the little green Noryang Guest House. The chef made us a delicious breakfast as usual.
Then off we went on our bus ride to the Shree Lokil School in the Tamang Valley. There was quite a bit of earthquake damage here and there - lots of crumbled buildings. But also many reconstructed buildings.
When we get to camp, some of the local kids were hanging around up on the hill, waiting for us. It wasn’t long before they made their way to camp. There were about 5-6 little girls all in a huddle, who were too shy to even say Namaste at first! Before long, Stewart worked his magic and they were all over him. It was so gorgeous. He did dancing and made funny faces. They were so cute.
After lunch, we walked up to the school - where there was a beautiful archway adorned with red rhododendrons and a welcome sign. It was so sweet. We all received a ‘welcome’ scarf and a can of coke. It wasn’t long before we looked at the work to be commenced the following day - shifting sand for making plaster on the inside walls of the newly built school house, and the rendering of the plaster too. There are only two rooms in the new building but it looks like there can be more built on top in the future.
The old school building is earthquake damaged and only two of the rooms are usable… but only just… This is a very poor village and the people are doing it tough – but they all come together and support each other. A few of our porters come from here and one is the ‘president’ of the school.
It wasn’t long before Stewart found an old set of swings - partly abandoned and they magically got fixed and set up for the kids. We think it was a long time since they had been in use as the kids were very wary at first –but it wasn’t long before they were all taking turns and having lots of fun. When we came back to camp, many kids followed us and played until it was time for dinner, then off they went home.
Day 8 – Another re-build Nepal day
We had another day at the school - well half day really!
There were lots more sand shifting for us. Stewart has really got the sifting in water process nailed! We also helped to fix another set of swings and get them concreted into the yard. We were eventually called for lunch so trouped back to the campsite for yet another delicious lunch. We had a leisurely feed and then got ourselves back up to the school.
All the villagers had been assembled to thank us for our contribution. We were given scarves (katags) in farewell and thanks. We gave our bags of goodies to the school. The kids were pretty excited for some new balls, skipping ropes, books and stickers etc. There were also a heap of little clip-on Koalas that the kids (and parents) loved.
Everyone was a bit shy at first but before long the ladies started to dance and sing. The men joined in too! Stewart was up and ready and dancing with the blokes and I had a bit of a dance with the ladies. We left the clothing for the school to distribute as they deemed fit. They were mostly gorgeous summer clothes, compliments of Leisa Ashton at Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation.
We had been given a patch work knitted blanket back in Brisbane from a school that wanted to give something to the people who had been through the earthquake. Bikash had suggested we give it to a young mother with a 1 month old baby. Her husband was one of our porters on the trek and their home had been destroyed in the earthquake. They are now living in a shelter with a bit of corrugated iron, some tarp down one side, a bit of protection for their 2 cows and some chickens – with no door.
In the middle of the shelter, there is an open little fire with a kettle kept on the boil. The fumes and smoke has nowhere to go, so it fills their little abode until some can escape through the open side near the cows.
It’s quite heartbreaking - we gave this dear young lady the blanket and I had a couple of t-shirts and a fleece jacket that I gave her as well. I hope they offer a little protection for her and baby - but it is not much at all.
I’m going to see if Dr Surendra can organise a women’s clinic nearby for the ladies in the village and neighbouring districts. At least we may be able to offer some women’s health advice.
We then went back to camp with a little following of the children – Stu is like the Pied Piper and they adored him.
Early start - Last breakfast on camp with our fantastic team. We handed out our tips to the crew and then headed back to Kathmandu. The road was long and pretty bumpy - but we had something very exciting waiting for us… HOT showers! We couldn’t wait to hot foot it up to our rooms and get clean.
A few of us got a taxi to Thamel for some well-earned shopping. We bought lots of goodies at Pilgrims Book Store. We had a delicious Indian meal and then went back to the hotel for some much needed mattress sleeping.
Day 10 – Home sweet home!
I love my family and my life - SO grateful!
About the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF)
In Nepal, cervical cancer kills more women than any other cancer due to a lack of resources. To help these women avoid dying from a preventable disease, join us at the ACCF’s Heart of Nepal Challenge in April 2019, where you will help set up the first ever screening camp in a remote location. Your fundraising efforts will help enable 90 women to screen and receive treatment for cervical cancer. Together the whole group can screen and treat over 1000 women.