HDFA Newsletter | December 2016

Namaste from the land of happy chaos! 

By Jo Chaffer – Country Director Nepal, for HDFA.

First of all a big thank you from me, from our partners PHASE Nepal and the Kanchenjunga Buddhist Social Service (KBSS) and most of all from the people of Ghunsa and Seti Devi, to all the supporters of HDFA in Australia who support has made a real difference, thank you!

Nepal in December 2016 is a much better place to be than a year ago. The earthquake aftermath still lingers but much good work by good people has reduced some of the suffering, not least the rebuild of part of Seti Devi school in Sindupalchowk by local builders overseen by PHASE Nepal’s team. Their strategy of leveraging economies of scale through purchasing materials centrally, of training up local semi-skilled builders to be able to construct safer classrooms has paid off. The school are very happy with how the rebuild was managed, the community now has skills and knowledge within their people that they can apply to rebuilding their own homes more safely – and we came in under budget!

This year we’ve seen a rise in the number of tourists. Not quite up to pre earthquake levels but getting there. Most significantly we have an open border with India again - no blockade. We’re cooking on gas!

Ghunsa updates

The villagers held an all-person meeting on November 30th to discuss all and every idea and problem affecting them from hydro to health, trails, education, training and business.

The monsoon was very heavy and prolonged this year resulting in big damage to the trails lower down and a few bridges washed away. This has made travel to and from Ghunsa even more tricky than normal, as our volunteers Doreen, Sam and Jack can testify!

We’re working with the District government, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Project (KCAP), the Ministry of Tourism and other agencies to raise this as an area for investment. This is part of our push for the development of a tourism strategy to enable sustainable socio-economic growth in the region. We were able to bring this to the table at the recent 60th anniversary celebrations of Kanchenjunga’s first ascent, attended by the President and Prime Minister.

We also took advantage of the PM’s presence to ‘launch’ the www.kanchenjungatrek.org website and our Facebook page ‘lovekanchenjunga’ designed to share images and experiences of the fabulous trekking, climbing and rafting in the region. Feel free to like and share.


After helping replace the generator and control system motherboard in spring, we encouraged the Hydro Committee to carry out a system audit to find out where potential problems might be. Their review highlighted the need to replace the underground cable distributing power throughout Ghunsa. Nupu organised the purchase of the cable and we’ve now shipped it to Sukhetar where it is safely stored until spring when our trekkers’ helicopter will bring it up to the village when it picks up our trekkers group.

Medical equipment and training

We’ve just topped up the medicines and medical equipment at Ghunsa’s Health Post providing an autoclave, fridge, scales for weighing babies amongst other things. 

HDFA is supporting the health team in 2016 with additional training for Ghunsa nurses, Partichha and Prabhin in:

  • Prolapsed uterus treatment
  • Advanced midwifery skills
  • Health post administration
  • Updates on medicines, regulations and best practice in remote health care

This will be with short placements at the Nick Simmonds Institute supported hospital in Taplejung, in PHASE Nepal’s busy Sindupalchowk Health Post and in their Kathmandu centre.

Ghunsa School

The school is a completely different animal than when I was last there in spring in terms of teaching and management. This is down to the magnificent efforts of Himali Sherpa and the rest of the new School Management Committee (SMC). Himali and team have been checking in on the school at least twice a day every day since they were elected. What a difference!

To help them keep up their good work we arranged for two trainers from the SMC Association of Nepal and the Resource Person from the District Education Office (DEO) to come up with us and provide some basic instruction on education governance; i.e. the powers, responsibilities etc of an SMC. We invited Foley and Ghunsa schools’ SMCs to join us. All are agreed this was an excellent session, the first of its kind in the region and something we want to build on in the winter with visits to model schools and further meetings to achieve better educational provision across the whole of the VDC through collaboration.

The school children and staff have been working very hard practicing Tibetan and various traditional Nepalese dance and song routines. They happened to be practicing when a group of trekkers from the Australian agency BackTrack appeared. The group was so impressed they gave the school a very generous donation! Kids, teachers and parents came up to their lodge that evening to give a full performance as a thank you – which raised even more cash!

We’ve now had donation boxes placed in all the trek lodges. Put money in and get a hand written ‘thank you’ note from the kids. We hope this will keep money flowing in.

LN sir, the longest serving teacher at Ghunsa, and a couple of the Year 6 girls will, we hope, take further training in playing traditional musical instruments this winter when they come to Kathmandu. We’re looking for a teacher for them and will support this very important way of keeping their cultural heritage alive.

Sadly Tenzin, the HDFA supported Tibetan/ Sherpa and English language teacher, is leaving Ghunsa to pursue a career in the District capital. He’s done a great job motivating kids and teachers alike and has revitalised language teaching at the school. We wish him well in his new post. Meantime we’re busy recruiting a replacement to carry on the good.

Ghunsa School Hostel

The hostel is thriving – bursting at the seams actually! We were a little concerned to see 26 kids now occupying the 20 bed hostel but for the moment at least, this seems to be working out OK. Previously there had been problems managing hostel costs against the fees being charged – they were running at a loss.  However now with the Mother’s Group in charge, your support in topping up the fees and a very generous donation of a years’ worth of toiletries, cleaning products and other essentials from Kathmandu based MNE Vishal Group, things are on track.

For 2017 we’re looking into extending the hostel upwards to provide safe, clean accommodation for up to 40 children. We’ve been reluctant to keep increasing space as we’re aware of the imbalance in education provision this is creating across the VDC and beyond. However with the new cooperation between the schools and their SMCs and with a need to increase class sizes in order to improve the quality of the learning experience (currently some year groups are empty and others have only 2 or 3 students), we are now willing to support the extension. The SMC and HDFA have initiated a scoping study of the costs this extension itself and the recurring costs associated with running a education facility with more students.

We’re also working with Vishal Group and other companies to seek supply of essential foodstuffs thus reducing running costs (the main costs are food and its transport up to the school). We’ll use the helis picking up clients on our Snow Leopard trek to uplift as much food as possible. So if you trek with us you’ll be helping in multiple ways!

Volunteer visit

We welcomed Doreen Ho, the HDFA accountant, and Sam Mitric, volunteer teacher and her partner Jack to Ghunsa this October. It was a first visit to Nepal for the two women and not without its challenges. We’re really happy that they were able to come and see the good work going on and help us out sharing their skills and experience with our local partners and the school in Ghunsa. Thanks a mill gals!

Together the pair raised almost $7,400 - so a big thanks to all of you who supported them. Donations can still be made via Givematcher: Doreen and Sam.

Child Sponsorship Changes

Having reviewed many different options, taken a long hard look at the ethical issues and practicalities involved we’ve decided to discontinue requests for sponsorship of individual children. We still would love your support though so are now requesting sponsors for teachers (the new English and Sherpa language teacher; our lovely kindergarten teacher); classrooms; hostel fees support for low income families; contributions to post-Ghunsa schooling for the brightest and most ambitious kids…. We’ll provide a full list with suggested amounts in January 2017. Please contact us to discuss our plans and be a part of making a difference....  email us

2017 Treks to Nepal

In spring (April-May) the Snow Leopard Heli-trek to Kanchenjunga Base Camp and flying out by helicopter and overflight of the Everest BC trek and a few places remain available. Later in the year we’re offering a gentler trek to our Upper Indrawati project area in autumn (Sept-Oct). This trip includes a non-technical trekking peak (Yangri) just above the Helambu area, stunning views of the Langtang and Ganesh Himal then follows locals’ trails through the Upper Indrawati area ending up with a few days of relaxation and play at The Last Resort. See the places, meet the people… September 30th for two weeks. Suitable for families. Full itinerary on request. email us

Read more about our April-May Trek here.


Thanks and until next year

Jo Chaffer

Country Director Nepal

Recognition and thanks

It's been a busy year with some fantasitic results thanks to all of the supporters of HDFA - the donors, the people who volunteered time, those on the ground in Nepal, PHASE and KBSS ensuring delivery and a brighter future for the children of Nepal - thanks!

Also a special mention to Jo Chaffer our Country Director Nepal who has endured the challenges, lept over the hurldes and kept the programs on track - thanks from all of us to Jo Chaffer.


Best regards

Duncan Chessell
+61 414 804 055

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Himalayan Development Foundation Australia Inc

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