Kirsty first met Som in her capacity as a journalist for the ABC. She interviewed him in Cairns as he prepared to travel to Nepal immediately following the 25 April 2015 earthquake. His brother had been killed, and the school and hostel had been destroyed – the crisis was enormous and very personal for Som. Kirsty was very impressed by Som’s stoicism in the face of tragedy and his drive to provide disaster relief. Her TV news story and followup radio reports helped raise critical support through donations to Friends of Himalayan Children.
In March 2016, Kirsty took on the role of MC at the charity’s major fundraiser, an International Women’s Day dinner, in Cairns. (She was also MC in 2017 and 2018.) On the same day, she signed up to sponsor Jenisha, a 6-yr-old child, whose family home in Batase had been destroyed in the earthquake and who was still living in very poor circumstances. Her father was helping with repairs and re-construction projects in the village, and at the same time trying to provide for his family of five children. 18 months after the earthquake, Kirsty travelled to Batase, to meet Jenisha and see first-hand how Batase was recovering. She arrived on foot, after a two-day walk, with Som’s sister as her guide, and she stayed for a month.
One project that Kirsty worked on in Batase was creating a database for the Sponsorship program. She took photos and gathered profiles of the children in need of financial support. During the month, Kirsty also taught various classes at the school, including Grade 4, where 10-year-old Rabina came to her attention. Rabina was a very conscientious student, trying her hardest to do well at school, and she was struggling with chronic pain in her knee. The nearest medical clinic is in Melamchi, a 3-hour walk away, or a 1.5-hour bus ride. Kirsty arranged for a small group to go with her and Rabina on the bus to Melamchi for diagnosis and treatment. (Kirsty recalls the the slow, overcrowded bus, which they shared with chickens – winding down a treacherous, rocky road) On her return to Cairns, Kirsty found herself signing up to sponsor Rabina as well as Jenisha. Another of the groups Kirsty taught in Batase was a year 9 class. In the class was another impressive student called Suntali, who expressed interest in becoming a journalist. Back in Cairns, Kirsty presented Suntali’s story to her Women in Media group, which agreed to sponsor Suntali through her senior schooling and college years. To complete senior schooling, children are obliged to go to either Melamchi or Kathmandu. Suntali is now studying in Melamchi.
When the Friends of Himalayan Children advertised the Womens’ Trek to Everest Base Camp for September, 2018, Kirsty was quick to sign on. This was a major fundraising effort to establish a library in Batase, and Kirsty saw it also as a wonderful opportunity to visit Jenisha, Rabina and Suntali in Batase. What emotional reunions these were. In fact, Suntali walked from Melamchi to see Kirsty, on her one day off school, stayed overnight, and left to walk back to Melamchi at 6.30am the next morning. For Kirsty, the personal rewards of sponsoring children and volunteering with FHC are enormous.
© Friends of Himalayan Children 2019