The villager’s first request was for money. We had no funds to give and we also felt that just giving cash was not the answer to sustainability but just a way to foster more dependency in the third world.
We asked the community how and what they could contribute to the project. They said, “We have our sky our mountains our families, our rivers and culture and our hands. Bring people who can help and we will share what we have”.
Humla, the Trust’s main working area had never been included in the mainstream development programs and we recognized the huge tourism potential within these beautiful areas and tried to combine it with development works to develop the region and help the local people.
It was clear now what the fledgling Nepal Trust had to do and that tourism would be the vehicle to create this remote area’s first community health post. The Nepal Trust ran a small advertisement in 1994 in two national UK newspapers – the Guardian and the Telegraph – with the hope that we would reach the full spectrum of British society who would then pay to go on a trek to help build a clinic in the Himalayas (Torpa village).
Within 6 months 5 English and 4 Scottish trekkers were participating in the first ‘Trek To Build Health & Community’, that hiked over 120 miles through dense forest, steamy jungles, crossing swollen rivers and 5000m passes in the far West of Nepal where no tourists had trekked before. The 10 participants successfully built the first of the Nepal Trust clinics in Humla in 1995.
Within 2 years of completion of the health post, villagers from as far away as 3 days walk were making their way there for desperately needed medical treatment and hope. The trek helped to pay for this community service and the trekkers contributed humor and work towards the effort that was organized, partially financed and completed by local people.
In its third year of operation this first clinic in the village of Torpa, treated more than 3000 people, some carrying their sick relatives for up to 3 days to seek the only medical help available in the area.
These days it’s possible to fly into Simikot, from where you can trek out to visit the health posts and micro hydro projects over the course of several days.
Since that time The Nepal Trust has run ‘Treks-to-Build’ or renovate several health posts, a community guesthouse, an ancient monastery and we are the first to run ‘Treks-to-Electrify’; There have been 5 ‘Treks-to-Build’ village micro-hydro plants that provided light and power to hundreds of people for the first time in their history. We have also run numerous ‘university student’, ‘medical research’, ‘monastery renovation’ (including the 10th century Halji Gompa) and ‘mobile health camp’ treks.
Our ‘Treks-to-Build Health and Community’ program is an attempt to transform tourism in the developing world as a pro-active force. We hope to create a new form of tourism that strengthens local management capability, cultural integrity and environmental awareness and that gets results and community projects done in the field.