Leeds University medical student Ross Gillespie has recently returned from spending a month in Nepal, during which he distributed over 40 of LED’s solar powered lights, carried out eye tests and prescribed more than 50 pairs of reading glasses (kindly donated by Dave and Pat Booth) and conducted research interviews with healthcare workers about the primary healthcare system in the rural areas.
Here’s what he has to say about the experience….
Having worked with LED before in the Cordillera Blanca mountains of Peru, I was fortunate to have a second opportunity to work with the organisation, this time heading to the Himalayan foothills of Nepal in April. A combined project (alongside some research with University of Leeds) was the perfect chance to explore some of the more remote villages of the Dolakha region, north east of Kathmandu, as well as trekking through the stunning Gaurishankar Conservation Area.
Myself, Jenny (friend at University), Nima (guide) and Budi (porter) headed to the mountains on a 10 hour bus journey – public buses only for this route which is an experience worth having – and arrived in Singati, raring to go. After storing some extra kit with Nima’s family, we began our trek in the afternoon at Chyotchyot, with a solid two hours of uphill steps, to lead us to Simigaun. From here (approx. 2000masl), we ascended through Dongang, Beding, and Na, along the ‘Classic Rolwaling Valley’ trek through forests, fields and surrounded by brightly coloured flora. Accommodation consisted of small but comfortable guest houses, all hosted by the welcoming locals. The highlight of this first trek would have to be the day-visit to Tsho-rolpa lake and beyond (to approx. 5000masl) and after a little more exploring for another day we headed back down the trail. (In October season there is a pass that can be reached to complete a circuit but this is snowed over in April/May).
With some extra time on our hands before Jenny moved on to her next destination, we explore more of the spectacular region – and although mostly dry, the heat (up to 30 degrees Celsius) made uphill stretches particularly challenging at times. Another highlight was visiting the women’s monastery in Bigu (great place to stop for your first hot shower in a fortnight) followed by the Hindu temple in Kallnchowk – both with far reaching views of snow peaks and rolling mountain valleys.
After two weeks of dedicated trekking, the real work began. Jenny left for Burma and Nima and I touched base at his parent’s house to draw up a plan. We spent 4-5 days distributing over 40 solar powered lights and prescribing more than 50 pairs of reading glasses (kindly donated by Dave and Pat Booth), in and around the Khare region. I also took the opportunity to teach some English in the local school. Following this, Nima and I took to the trails, walking from village to village to conduct interviews with healthcare workers about the primary healthcare system in the rural areas. Locals were very receptive to our work and appreciated the contribution made by our efforts. Whilst mobile, we did further eye tests though eventually ran out of glasses as we could only carry a limited supply. Whilst unfortunate, it means there is still much to be done.
Another two weeks passed in total before Nima and I headed back to Kathmandu. In addition to the trekking I managed to visit Pokhara, a fantastic tourist town with great food, some western comforts and a great mix of locals and travellers (especially at Busy Bee on a Friday/Saturday night). I also spent three days in Chitwan in and around the national park. At a muggy 38 degrees Celsius it’s a very different climate to the crisp mountain air, but there is lots to see and do. In particular I would recommend staying near Sauraha, and in low-season you can get great deals on Jungle safari tours, motorbike hire, and more.
All in all this was a fantastic trip with a great balance of charitable work, difficult trekking and touristy bits in between. As my first time in Nepal, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent here and will look forward to my next trip to the region. I would like to thank Val Pitkethly for organising and coordinating the trip, to Pat and Dave booth for their advice with prescribing reading glasses, to Nima for his hospitality and commitment as a guide, as well as Jenny, Samay and all the other travellers who made this a memorable experience. Finally, thanks to the kind people of Nepal – their kind, easy-going and positive attitude makes you feel very much included and welcome in this incredible country.
Medical Student at University of Leeds
Photos from Ross of the two weeks he spent in Khare are available in this LED Facebook album.
Interested in volunteering with us in Peru or Nepal? Use the Contact LED form on the website (www.lighteducationdevelopment.org), or message us on facebook.com/LEDCharity, to find out about opportunities this year and next.