How far would you go to support something you truly believe in? Sarah Waters has set the bar high with an inspiring trek through Nepal with not-for-profit organisation Save the Children to raise funds for much needed health and education programs for Nepalese children. By Kirra Smith.
From an outsider’s perspective, Nepal has a certain mystical allure, the smoky mountains and rushing rivers seem to rise up from the pages of wondrous storybook. The thought of the mountain nation evokes images of children skipping happily, baskets dangling from their arms, living a myriad of life’s simplest pleasures. The physical reality it seems is not far from this dreamlike notion however Nepal is a land of stark contrast, while the lay of the land is rich in beauty, the plight of the people is an entirely different story.
Nestled between the impossibly high Himalayan Mountains and the sizzling Indian jungle, Nepal is home to approximately 26.6 million people, over half of which live below the poverty line and around one third without clear drinking water. It is one of the worlds’ poorest nations due to lack of access to resources and low productivity farming land. It is a desperate situation and one that Sarah Waters, hopes to assist in overcoming.
A Gold Coast local, Sarah is making her dream of helping those in need a reality by taking part in Born to Trek Nepal, an initiative created by Save the Children Australia to raise funds for health and education programs in Nepal. Save the Children are Australia’s leading independent emergency relief and development organisation for children. This particular trip includes 14 days of trekking and project work which includes building or restoring a school or health clinic. Of the trek Sarah says, “This trip will see a group of around 20 people make a real difference to a remote community in need as well as enjoying the trek of a lifetime though the Annapurna Ranges in the Himalayas. We will travel to two villages in the Sindhupalchok District and assist with health and education programs in these areas.”
During a personal search for adventure and the challenge of a lifetime, Sarah chose to participate in the trek after researching many charity type holidays – a growing trend that’s often referred to as ‘volountourism’, “I was also inspired by a friend who did a similar adventure to Vietnam with another charity; their event raised money to build a school. I think this growing trend of voluntourism offers the perfect mix of adventure, challenge and also a sense of purpose as it allows people to really connect with a country and its people when they visit”.
Nearly half of the children in Nepal are under weight and many students are out of school for various reasons. In disadvantaged families, children are often forced to work because their income is critical to the family’s survival. For children who do attend school, many drop out due to poor infrastructure, no toilets, poor classroom management and insufficient learning materials. Says Sarah, “I’m particularly interested in children and equality. I’ve always been aware how lucky we are growing up in a country like Australia where basic health and education are available to everyone. There are so many people in the world worse off than us, and I think it’s important to be aware of that and do what we can to help others.”
As a first time visitor to Nepal, Sarah’s excitement is palpable, she says her recent training as a yoga instructor was a very important part of her decision to visit Nepal, “After reading several of the text books on Yogi’s that have lived and learnt about yoga in the Himalayas it built up my curiosity to visit the Himalayan mountains for myself. They sound like such a magical place. It also gave me a purpose and motivation to actually start teaching yoga and face the fear associated with that”.
When asked if this is something she might continue to do in the future, Sarah says “Save the children work in over 120 countries and in 2011 alone, assisted the lives of more than 125 million children around the world! They also do a lot of work in Australia, which I’m interested in finding out more about. “
The total cost to participate in the trek is $7,500 per person with $3,500 covering trip costs, and $4,000 being a direct donation to the health and education programs in the villages of Nepal. This donation will pay for training of local volunteers who are champions of the health programs aimed at decreasing infant mortality rates in the villages, it will go toward equipment and stock for the health clinic and schools and also contribute to a renovation or new build of the health clinic and school buildings.
Sarah says, “While we’re thinking of helping children around the world, we can’t forget that many children in our own country, although having access to health and education, also suffer from problems such as domestic violence in the home among others, which I might add is alarmingly high on the Gold Coast.”
The lack of resources in Nepal are detrimental to their moving forward as a nation and it is for this reason as well as their extreme reliance on farming as a main source of income, that they in particular need assistance from the Western world. Sarah’s is a selfless attitude and one that thousands of Australians share, to give of yourself so freely is to be recognised and celebrated. If you would like to donate or find out more about how you can help, click here.