Organizing a Philanthro-Trek; Basa 2017
I have been combining trekking in Nepal with culturally sensitive development projects for 20 years. The last one, to Basa village in November 2017, was especially gratifying. Many people worked and played together to make it special. Several mini-projects were performed, including delivery of reading glasses, solar-powered LED lights, and shoes.
The primary purpose of the trek to Basa was for supporters of the Basa Village Foundation USA (BVF) to celebrate the completion of rebuilding the village after a series of devastating earthquakes struck Nepal in 2015. The BVF put other projects on hold to focus attention and help supply resources in partnership with our sister foundation in Katmandu, BVF-Nepal, to restore homes, the school, and the water and electric systems in Basa.
Foundation President Joel Meyers and an advance party of BVF-Nepal team members arrived in Basa in late October to review and document the rebuilding work performed by the villagers. They awaited the arrival of the rest of our party of 15 philanthro-trekkers.
We came from all regions of the US, Rachel from NYC, Dennis from New Hampshire, several from Indy, Mike from New Mexico, David and Melissa from LA, Joel from Seattle. After arriving and spending a couple days in Katmandu, we flew to the airstrip in the village of Phaplu. From there, some of us made the journey by Jeep over the very rough road to Basa. Others hiked the challenging trail to Basa for 2 days through the beautiful rhododendron forests of the middle Himalayas. The staff of Adventure GeoTreks guided us, fed us, set up our tents, and looked after all our needs from arrival in Katmandu, each day on the road or trail, in Basa, and through the rest of the different adventures group members had in Nepal, to departure by air from Katmandu.
As we neared Basa, we were met by the village musicians, who piped and drummed us into the village. The entire village turned out to shower us with flowers. Village matrons pushed cups of rakshi (home-brewed spirits) and chang homemade beer) into our hands.
During our three days in Basa we visited many homes as well as the school, the new library/computer lab, and surveyed the water and electric works. We had lots of fun playing with the kids, who looked great in their new school uniforms.
It is an awesome experience to be in Basa, breathing the fresh mountain air, looking out over the deep river valley and off into the vast Himalayas, seeing the star-filled night sky, and just enjoying the company of the very tough and very kind Rai people of Basa. The enjoyment was enhanced because of the philanthro part of the trek, which required the efforts of our trekkers, BVF-Nepal, Adventure GeoTreks, and supporters of the BVF.
Shoes provided by Indianapolis-based Changing Footprints were distributed to children and elders in need of footwear. Solar-powered LED lights purchased from LuminAid were distributed to each family in the village. Villagers of all ages were tested for reading glasses. Gordon Mendenhall spent 2 days testing the vision of over 200 villagers and fitting those in need with reading glasses. He trained one of the school teachers, Asam, to test and fit glasses, so the effort can spread throughout the Basa area. The BVF provided 500 pairs of reading glasses to be distributed in the Basa region.
The highlight of our visit to Basa was the celebration during the last evening before departing the village. The school children performed many traditional Rai and Nepali songs and dances. There were speeches, toasts, much drinking and eating, and everyone joined in the dancing after night fall descended on the village. As the party wound down streams of light criss-crossed the village while families returned to their home carrying the LuminAid lights.
The next morning the philanthro-trekkers broke camp to go off on different adventures. Hal, David, Melissa, David, and Gordon made the long arduous 2-day drive back to Katmandu. The 4 members of the Miller Clan hiked back on the “classic Base Camp Trial” to venture up Pikey Peak. Steve, Suzanne, and I flew to Pokhara to do the “royal trek” around the mountain lakes below Annapurna. Joel, Andy, and Dennis took the very long way back by trekking north to climb 21,000 foot Mera Peak.
Before we departed Basa, the villagers covered us in flowers.