Manaslu trek guides bring light to Nubri and Tsum
I met Val Pitkethly, wearing a huge red down jacket, last November in Gokyo. She was friends with Lizzy Hawker who was in our group in the Everest Sky Race. I mentioned that there would be a staged running race around the Manaslu Trek route next year, and then she began to tell me about her experiences there. Here she explains the work she and her cause have been doing to help bring solar lights, educational materials and improved health to the Manaslu and Tsum Valley regions. If you are looking to give something to the region you are trekking in, perhaps LED can help you help?
When did you first trek around Manaslu. How was it then and how is it now?
In 1993 it was very basic more so than now even though Samagaon only received its first school 2010 and Samdo in 2009 both of which have had large donations from outside Nepal to build the schools . There was very little micro hydro anywhere in the region now many villages do have hydro but many villages still have nothing in the way of lights or medical supplies .
Tell us about LED and when did you start working in the Manaslu region?
Delivering school supplies started fairly recently with the opening of the new school in Samdo and Samagaon. Again only taking what local villagers want and not what westerners think they should have, and only in those villages where people ask. Tsum valley was a main priority to start with as I worked with local lad for many years so once it opened in 2009 we took solar lights to Chule and Nile.
We’ve got the names of everyone who so far has received lights. The costs slightly reduced recently as the assembly has been made easier. A women’s group in Kathmandu assembles the lights.
What other projects do you do there?
Light Education Development (LED) has been delivering medical kits and basic first aid kits for about six years along with some basic first aid teaching using “Where There is No Doctor”, a great and very helpful book published in Nepali and English. We also help deliver medicines for the Phase health posts that have been recently established in Tsum and Manalsu area and are run by fully trained nurses and who also have an excellent training scheme in Kathmandu .
Then we started with solar lights to Tsum Valley and Manalsu area a few years ago. It’s a very basic box light but works well and costs around 35 USD but then has to be delivered so portering costs come on top of that. We’ve done projects in Chule, Chumling, Samagaon, Sumgaon, Gum Gaon, Tong Gompa, and Samdo for the women without husbands who have kids, or old people.
So far we’ve delivered 150 lights to the Tsum valley and Nubri areas along with medical supplies to Phase Health posts and basic medical kits to various villages off the main trail in Manaslu trek area along with basic teaching of First aid and using “Where There is No Doctor”.
Samdo now has a new micro hydro scheme but folks seem to prefer the box light as it’s brighter. We’ve also have delivered medical supplies for last few years to Samagaon, Samdo, Chumling and Chekapar to the Phase Health Posts along with books and solar lights for their health workers there.
At Samagaon School the headmaster Bir Bahadur has also had 10 solar lights for the new school and hostel and also we are helping build a school library for them. They’re having books and clothing for children in the hostel delivered to them the last couple of years.
How can people help?
People can join a trek and raise money for the charity, or by volunteering time (as teacher or nurse) is also very much appreciated at any of the schools or health posts. Contact Val on the email address below for any more information.
Also anyone interested in helping deliver solar lights to some of the communities by helping pay for the portering cost would also be great.
If you would like to help with projects for schools health posts in the area, or help raise money for solar lights for some of the villages off the beaten track that don’t yet have micro hydro projects, please contact email@example.com or www.lighteducationdevelopment.org.
NB: It can take a while for Val to give a reply as often out on a trek in a remote place.
Tell us about yourself Val.
I’ve been working in Nepal for 26 years approximately five months every year working as a climbing and trekking guide. I did Himalayan traverse 1993-1994 (like an early Great Himalaya Trail) raising money for the Himalayan Trust and Intermediate Technology (now Practical Action) who bought micro hydro units for villages in West Nepal.
I’ve climbed many peaks including Cho Oyu and Manaslu etc. and have been doing trekking and some volunteer work in the Manaslu area since it opened. The first aid projects started 2005 with basic kits and basic training. Solar lights started in 2008 and would have been earlier but there were problems with Maoists in the lower regions of Buri Gandaki.