After 18 years of expeditions and treks in the Himalayas it was a visit to the fabled Kanchenjunga region of eastern Nepal visiting the Ghunsa school in 2013, with long time friend Chhowang Sherpa, that inspired me to action. Walking into the freezing cold room used as a hostel for 8 children to sleep on the floor, it was obvious change was required. Initially education was the focus, but with a 1 in 4 attendance rate, it was obvious a lot more needed to be done than simply painting the classroom and putting a company sponsors name over the door way and walking away job done...
Returning to Australia, I teamed up with Andrew Stace an Adelaide based educator who had a passion and experience in teacher training in remote Nepal. Together we founded the Himalayan Development Foundation Australia to tackle community development in rural communities, with the firm concept of "co-funded time bound development not endless aid", and with a vague understanding of what that might look like...!
Andrew and I were lucky enough to have a great team of people (read - long suffering friends, family and business associates) who came onto the board giving their experience from NFP, fundraising, accounting, medical and teaching backgrounds. Many more have worked in the background, provided pro-bono: legal, accounting, audits, websites, marketing, office space, corporate partners, free event venue's and the many donors providing the critical life blood of funding. The team in Nepal who executed the vision and plans, the workers who toiled, the volunteers who gave time and the community leaders who inspired their peers. It's been an amazing journey and we are all very proud of the accomplishments that the organisation has been able to achieve, a brighter future for many - children educated, built an awarding winning school, adults trained, lives saved, buildings constructed, corporate governance and leadership programs, livelihood improvement training, medical facilities - it goes on.
Now HDFA is operating in multiple areas of Nepal with our main focus in the Indrawati community of 9,500 people, 50km north of Kathmandu close to the Tibet border. Our original program in the Kanchenjunga area has reached a more mature phase requiring of less inputs and we turn our attention to rural communities in need elsewhere. As we enter the next 5 years of HDFA with our new DGR tax deductibility status, the organisation will evolve and grow and I am very excited to see what we can achieve as a team and pursue our vision of securing a brighter future for Nepal's children.
On behalf of the entire HDFA team, to my friend Chhowang Sherpa who grew up in Kanchenjunga region thankyou for the opportunity to do something meaningful, namaskar di. Regards Duncan.