Posted by Gilly Oppenheim
Marg Stocker, one of six Trustees of the Forgotten Sherpas of Nepal Trust, treated us to an excellent address this week about the work of the Trust which was established in 2013 to improve living conditions in north-eastern Nepal.
 
The villages in the ‘middle hills’ of the Himalayas are at an altitude of 2,200 – 3,500 metres; access is difficult and they are generally regarded as Nepal’s poorest and most deprived areas. Infrastructure is almost non-existent, there are no roads and access is by steep and rough walking tracks across the hills.
 
So how did Marg get involved?
 
 
George Hunter, a retired chartered accountant from Geraldine first went to Nepal in 2001 and established a relationship with Ngima Sherpa, a trekking guide, who was keen to have solar lighting installed in his village of Damar. George approached the Geraldine Tramping Club and they fundraised the $15,000 needed to install the solar lighting in 2010.   Marg and her late husband Neil were part of this original group. Sadly Marg lost her husband in the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011, and her involvement with the Forgotten Sherpa Trust has helped her heal from her terrible loss and has filled the huge void in her life. She has since returned to Nepal six times.
 
The next project undertaken was installing a safe clean water system in the village of Damar in 2012. This new system meant that the Sherpa women no longer had to spend about an hour each day (two hours in the dry season) collecting water from a spring and then carrying a heavy container back home.
 
After their visits in 2010, 2011 and 2012, it became obvious that the poor living conditions, lack of hygiene and sanitation, no healthcare education and no access to community healthcare was having a serious effect on families, especially the young children. The death rate of children under five in Nepal was seven times the rate in NZ, so introducing community healthcare was the Trust’s next project. A mobile health service has been established which involves a group of health workers walking between villages to assist those in need of health care. There are four clinics held in houses with over 100 patients seen each month.
 
In 2017 another group of South Canterbury volunteers went to Nepal to install clean burning stoves and chimneys, using good old Kiwi ingenuity. The Sherpas have a long tradition of having an open fire in their main living space for heating and cooking, and the indoor smoke pollution was causing awful eye and lung infections, especially in young children. Thanks to the generosity of Canterbury and other donors, it was possible for a team of ten New Zealanders working with the Sherpas to install 115 stoves and chimneys in seven villages, including three schools in the area.
 
Another initiative of the Trust has been helping with schools and education. Each year since 2010, the Trust has provided equipment to a school in the village of Dhikure, a walk of 1 ½ hours each way for the children from Damar. This has included pens, pads, whiteboards, the ‘Room to Read’ books (in both Nepali and English), sports equipment, lots of clothing and day packs, as well as electricity from a small hydro scheme for lighting in the classrooms and materials to complete two new classrooms.
This year the Forgotten Sherpa Trust has been partnered with the Himalayan Trust in Nepal. Being partnered with such a respected NGO gives the local Trust credibility. In September 2019 Jill Worrall is organising a 17 day trek called “Off the Beaten Track in Nepal” in conjunction with the Geraldine Tramping Club. The trek will include a multi-night stay in the Damar region, enabling trekkers to meet the villagers and to see the Forgotten Sherpas Trust in action.
 
Their website is www.forgottensherpas.org and Marg is more than happy to talk to any community groups about the wonderful work the Trust is doing.
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