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TREKKING, yoga and rebuilding Nepali communities devastated by earthquakes are all part of the trips organised by Canberra charity REACH for Nepal.
Founders Lachhu Thapa and Lou Nulley started the foundation in 2015 following the earthquakes in Nepal centred on the Gorkha district, although before that Lachhu had been organising trips to Nepal through his restaurant The Hungry Buddha.
He says Lou came on board to lead the yoga element of the trips when they built up a friendship and, after the earthquakes, they decided to focus their visits towards restoration and relief.
“Travel is what I love and I’m lucky enough to be organising trips back to Nepal where I was born,” Lachhu says.
“We really undersell our tourism in Nepal and I feel I’m doing my bit to kick in with that.”
With two, 12-person trips planned for October 2018 almost booked out already, Lou says the experience allows people to directly assist on a project that fulfils the objectives of the foundation, which are reflected in the acronym REACH – Rebuild, Educate, Assist, the Children/Communities (giving) Hope for Nepal.
“So far at a school in Gorkha, we’ve built a water tank, two classrooms, an amenities block, a wall to make the playground safe, a library and computer room,” says Lachhu.
“It’s very rewarding and fulfilling, and I’m also able to work closely with my brothers in Nepal, Raju our trek guide and the in-country director Shiva.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be able to execute all that and to be successful at it.”
Lou says he loves going on the trips and seeing people “unfold, bond and relax” during the five-day trek to a school or village, where they are given the most incredible welcome.
“The trips provide a broad spectrum of interest for people, and it seems to attract a like-minded group who want to selflessly give, experience the beauty of Nepal, trek and are akin to yoga, as there’s that element of being centred and calm as well,” he says.
“Without this funding coming in, nothing is going to happen there. When we start the building work, the whole village comes out and it’s a festive atmosphere. By the end of the day, you’ve gone through so much.”
REACH for Nepal has formed connections with the University of Canberra, Canberra Grammar School and other Canberra institutions, and is planning trips and ways to support Nepal with them, says Lou.
They also have an agreement with Singapore Airlines to ship limited donated goods for free for their projects.
“We work hard to be formal, professional, transparent and accountable, as well as allowing for scalability, although at this stage our focus is to keep things small, so it can be a personal experience for anyone who’s contributing, whether financially or with their time,” says Lou.
“We have a lot of support from the local community here – in two years we’ve raised $50,000 through word of mouth and it all goes to help those who most need it in Nepal,” says Lachhu.
“We’ll be hosting our second annual gala dinner, catered by the Hungry Buddha, in September at the Albert Hall, which forms our major source of funding.
“And thanks to our links in Nepal, we are able to help out where it’s needed, we know what it takes to deliver aid directly.”
Lou says he feels blessed and privileged to be working on the foundation and helping to facilitate the trips.
“It gives me great joy, and that’s a carefully chosen word – some things can give you happiness for a short period of time but joy comes from within,” he says.
“And it comes from not only making a difference to people in Nepal but also in taking people from Australia there, guiding them through it all and having them come out the other end saying, that was an amazing experience. They gain a sense of making a difference in people’s lives. It’s tangible, which is an important part of giving.
“We give the people in Nepal so little and they give us so much.”
For more information about the trips, contact REACH for Nepal via reachfornepal.org. It costs $4000, including international and local airfares, all transport, accommodation and most meals. Each participant is asked to raise $250 for RFN before the trip.