The article was published on Canberra Times on 18 Apr 2017.
A Canberra charity set up in the wake of the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal is quietly kicking goals, raising money for much-needed restoration work and giving Australians the chance to work on local community projects from building libraries to installing water tanks.
Founded by Canberra trekking enthusiast and yoga teacher Lou Nulley and Nepalese-born Lachhu Thapa from The Hungry Buddha restaurants in Curtin and Belconnen, REACH for Nepal has also just finalised a sponsorship arrangement with Singapore Airlines to carry a limited amount of donated goods to Nepal for free when volunteers travel for a project.
The charity has also appointed 2016 Olympic gold medallist Kim Brennan as its first ambassador, a position she is “incredibly proud” to hold.
Entirely run by volunteers, REACH for Nepal’s priority is supporting people in remote, isolated areas of Nepal who have not been reached by other agencies. The areas are often only accessible by foot.
Anyone who participates in the trips treks for five days and spends three days working on a community project.
Each participant pays their own way and all money raised goes directly to projects for the Nepalese people. The trip participants are also asked to raise at least $250 to go towards a project.
On-the-ground work planned for this year includes building classrooms and helping with the production of school bags by people with disabilities in Nepal.
The homegrown charity answers the often hopeless question of “What can I do?” in the face of natural disaster and other tragedies a world away from Australia.
Mr Nulley said no professional expertise was needed, with volunteers from Australia providing labour support to the locals on the project, such as moving bricks or sand.
“There are not too many things in life where you can make a real difference, but this is one of them,” he said.
“It’s a fairly intense eight-day period but the experience is so rewarding. The people there are so grateful for the work that we do.”
Mr Thapa, who also has a trekking business, first met Mr Nulley in early 2015 when he wanted a yoga teacher to accompany one of his trips to Nepal. A few months later the devastating April 25 earthquake struck Nepal, killing nearly 9000 people, destroying communities and crippling the local tourism industry.
The two men had not only formed a friendship but harnessed a fierce desire to help the Nepalese people and make sure all money raised went directly to them.
Mr Nulley said nearly two years on, there was still much work to do, particularly in the remote areas.
Supporters don’t have to go on the trips, they can also donate money direct to the cause or help in a variety of other ways.
But going to Nepal and seeing the work first-hand has had a remarkable impact on participants.
“Almost without exception, people describe it as a life-changing event,” Mr Nulley said.
“Many say they wish they took their children over there so they would have a greater appreciation of how much they have here in Australia.”
Mr Thapa said the foundation was planning a big gala dinner at the Albert Hall on August 31 which would continue to bankroll projects and stimulate the Nepalese economy.
“Nepal is highly reliant on tourism and people who visit not only see the beauty but help the local communities. That raises their confidence; gives them hope,” he said.
Ms Brennan, meanwhile, said she was thrilled to be the foundation’s inaugural ambassador.
“I love that the foundation was started by two Canberrans – people just like you and me – who wanted to play their part in making the world a better place,” she said.
REACH for Nepal, meanwhile, stands for Rebuilding, Education, Assistance, Children/Communities (giving) Hope for Nepal.
Source – http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-life/canberra-charity-reach-for-nepal-determined-to-make-a-difference-20170412-gvjc8i.html