Philip Hoyle and Ray Wood, members of the Rotary Club of Kendal, have just returned from three weeks in Nepal where they visited the village of Khiraule, in a remote part of the Solu Khumbu (Everest region). The trip represents the culmination of two and a half years of work and co-operation, locally and internationally, to raise nearly £25,000 to fund a major redevelopment project at the village school to include: a water sanitation scheme; the building new classrooms and refitting existing ones; and the delivery of new teaching aids and sports equipment.
Khiraule is the home village of Lhakpa Sherpa who, with his wife Pat, lives, in the summer months, in Barbon, near Casterton. The village has a population of approximately 400, mostly small-scale farmers, of whom about 90 are children who attend the local school. To reach the village, the party of 10 trekkers, mostly local residents, had to walk for 4 days each way from and to the regional airport of Phaplu - walks that included both descents and ascents of around 1,000 metres and required sleeping under canvass, sometimes at height of nearly 3,000 metres, when the temperature dropped to around -7 degrees.
Philip says: - "It was the most incredible trip of a lifetime, walking in stunning scenery and being enthusiastically greeted at every stage by crowds of excited children. We were not on a normal tourist trail and this meant that, as a group of Westerners, we were often the centre of curiosity and attention. And, of course, some of the children liked to try out their English on us and ask us to take 'selfies' on our phones. The welcome we received at the village was both humbling and uplifting. We were applauded into the playground and seated there as the guests of honour. The whole school population then lined up to greet us individually as we were festooned with scarves and garlands entirely covering our necks and shoulders. This was followed by singing and dancing by villagers dressed in the traditional costumes of the local Sherpa people. This went on for nearly three hours. I have never experienced anything like it - we were quite overwhelmed."
During the visit, the party got the opportunity to do some hands on work as well: fixing the school computer; digging drainage trenches; painting new window frames and even staging lessons in the classrooms. "It was just a joy to be there and to help." Philip said, and added "Local firms did their bit as well. My son-in-law, Mark Kelsall, who was a member of our party, works at Croppers and they were kind enough to donate some paper for the School. Ulveston Rotary Club member and trekker, David Friend, arranged the donation of a supply of pencils from Keswick and my son Christian, who was also with us, donated pencil cases and erasers sponsored by his Leeds firm. We had 'goody bags' of these items to hand out to all the children at the School at the end of the welcoming ceremony."
Reflecting on the trip and his involvement in the Khiraule School development project, Philip commented: "For me, this has just demonstrated how Rotary can make a real and lasting difference to the lives of young people in a remote part of a poor country. We needed to be successful in obtaining a large grant from Rotary International in the USA, work with other Rotary Clubs in our area to raise additional funds, partner with a local Club in Nepal and work closely with Lhakpa to make this project work. This was international co-operation at its best. Nepal is now 'in my blood' and I am sure we will continue the link and help to maintain progress" he concluded.