With the aim of raising money for two military charities; the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) and Soldiers Sailors Airmen Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help, Doc McKerr from the United Kingdom has chosen to trek the Great Himalaya Trail.
McKerr chose the GWT because he had worked as the Project Engineer for the GWT’s field arm, the Gurkha Welfare Scheme (GWS) in 2009-10 in Pokhara and was responsible for the Project Cell. During this time they constructed 22 schools, provided aid for over 160 school refurbishments and constructed a medical centre. “So naturally my allegiance to the charity is strong, plus I think they do a marvellous job supporting the retired Gurkhas, many of whom weren’t entitled to a British Army pension, and the communities they live in”, says McKerr. Each year a number of school and water projects as well as medical camps are completed across Nepal.
McKerr chose SSAFA Forces Help because he thinks they are a great organisation who help anyone who has served in the military. They assist anyone of any age and support them in any way they can, whether it be helping them recover after a serious injury, provide social work for those suffering from post operational stress to supporting the families of injured military personal. “They are an amazing versatile charity and I have had a number of friends and colleagues receive assistance from them so I thought it only right that I raise money for them”, Mc Kerr says.
Doc McKerr is currently trekking the Kanchenjunga section of the GHT. We had spoken to him briefly before he left Kathmandu on 31 March. Excerpt from the interview.
GHT: How do you intend to raise money for the charity by trekking?
Doc: I am currently raising money through my website, friends and family. All money donated will go through Virgin Giving which means the money is automatically split between the two charities, they get the money straight away and gift aid can be received too (this is when the British Government add 25% to any donations so long as the donor is paying British Tax).
GHT: Why did you choose the GHT?
Doc: Like many people, I like trekking and climbing and I love the mountains and I thought this trek offered something for everyone. Also because it offers a great opportunity for me to review the old GWS and Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association projects in the more remote areas of Nepal but more importantly try and establish new projects like bridges, micro-hydro and individual aid for the severely disabled in the remote districts. Therefore, I thought by doing this trek I could achieve so much. Additionally, because this is so unique I hope it attracts more people’s attention and helps raise the profile of the GHT and in turn increases the amount of money I can raise.
GHT: Are you trekking the lower or the upper GHT? Tell us a little more about your route.
Doc: It will be a mix of the upper and lower GHT. The great things about the GHT route that I have chosen is that it covers so many different landscapes, cultures and traditions, many of which I had not really experienced during my 18 months in Nepal. I wanted a real challenge, in terms of the planning and the expedition itself and due to my connection to Nepal, my reasonable amount of experience and my limited Nepali language skills. I thought that this would make the perfect challenge.
GHT: Why did you decide to walk alone?
Doc: Well, mainly so that I could save money for the charity and to make the expedition as challenging as possible. During my time as the Project Engineer for GWS I managed to trek a lot as part of my job, seeing projects etc. and this gave me a great understanding of the people and the language, so doing it on my own has never been something that I am concerned with. A friendly smile and basic conversation to break the ice goes along way over here. This is a solo trek. I have always enjoyed a challenge, whether it be mentally or physically.
GHT: How many days will you take to complete this expedition?
Doc: I am completing the Great Himalaya Trail in less than 100 days. I am starting my adventure from Taplejung in East-Nepal on 01 April. I know this is an incredible task and for some people this may sound unrealistic, but I am keen to aim high and strive towards it as it is yet another challenge to keep me focused. Plus it’s a nice round number!
GHT: Have you undertaken a mission like this before?
Doc: I have never done anything like this before but the I really enjoyed the planning stages, even though they were incredibly frustrating, because I am doing this on my own without direct support (i.e. guides and porter or caches along the way). I had to think about things to a different level, especially contingency planning for all eventualities eg injury, logistics etc.
GHT: All the best, Doc, and hope you raise enough money for the charity.
Doc: Thank you. I’m hopeful people will be generous with their donations.
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