The picture to the right shows Sangram Lama, a Nepalese hiking guide I met back in 2009, when I visited Nepal and hiked the Langtang Valley National Park in the Himalayas. He was an excellent and honest guide, who I hired independently on the streets of Kathmandu, and hiked alongside in challenging terrain for a week, during which he was never less than fun, knowledgeable and encouraging.
Part of the reason I hired Sangram as an independent was that new legislation was in the pipeline in Nepal. Shortly after I left, independent guiding was outlawed in Nepal. Instead, licensed companies would have the sole rights to guide tourists through the mountains. In theory, this was a sensible measure to cut out the use of rogue ‘experts’ in dangerous conditions. The practical reality was it made life extremely difficult for people like Sangram (who insisted I kitted myself out extensively before taking me off to the hills, and knew the route we took impeccably).
If you’ve had even one eye on the news over the last few months, you’ll know that things haven’t exactly been going smoothly in Nepal. A series of earthquakes and aftershocks hit the country, and the area where I trekked, Langtang, was hit incredibly badly. If you can stomach the extent of the problems, there are some shocking news stories on what happened, here, here and here.
Here are a few pictures from my own trip to Langtang, showing how gorgeous the place used to be. Some estimates put deaths in the area at in excess of 80% of the population. None of the buildings pictured here exist anymore.
Fortunately, Sangram was in Kathmandu at the time looking for a new client, and his family at their home village to the East of Nepal (I’ve published Sangram’s story here, in my words and his own, if you’d like to know more extensive details of what actually happened to him during and after the quake). I’m now trying to raise money to help Sangram rebuild his house. He had a stable and seriously hardworking job taken from him by the collapse of the tourism industry. 300 people – fortunately excluding any of this closest friends or family – died in just his village during the quakes and the aftershocks. His house was cracked beyond repair, and his family – Sangram, his wife and two children – are now living in a tented shelter. His contacts from his time as a guide – a job that will become viable again only as tourists return – are all he has to get by.
I’ll edit this post over the coming weeks, to show money being sent and, where possible, how Sangram is using it. I have already sent Sangram as much as I can afford to right now, and quite a few people have kindly donated some extra funds through a post on my Facebook wall, too.
I don’t want to put anyone under any pressure, but equally, one or two Euros is worth a lot more in Nepal than it is in the western world, so sending absolutely anything at all is useful. I’m running the transfers through my own account, for the simple reason that it costs €15 per time to send a transfer to Nepal from AIB (if anyone wants to donate but would prefer to absorb that cost themselves, let me know and I’ll send details). I will put up copies of transfer documents and identify donors by initials at a later date, as I’m well aware that asking for money on the internet can look dodgy. Every penny will go to Sangram and his family.
Please donate via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org, and add a note if you’d prefer that your donation is totally anonymous, rather than acknowledged on this page with your initials (I will include the amount under ‘anon’)
Thankyou for the following donations – due to the transfer fee, I will be waiting a couple of weeks and promoting Sangram’s cause a little more before sending one bulk payment. Names shown as initials to protect anonymity, but allow those who have donated to identify themselves. I will post a transfer document as and when.
AG – €5
PC – £50
MD – $25
SB – £10
ML – $15
Thanks for any help you can give!