Travellers help Himalayan children

A CLIMBER’S dream is how many would describe a sabbatical year trekking the mountains in New Zealand, Canada, the Alps in France, and the Lake District in the UK.

Which is exactly how it felt for a Coffs Harbour couple, dentist Roger Sharpe and celebrant Wendy Haynes.

Volunteer work was also part of the program and the final month saw the couple in the foothills of the Himalayas at Dharamsala, safe haven to the world’s highest-profile refugee, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Having made contact with a local non-government organisation, the couple began doing dental check-ups for local school children.

“The free dental camps were visited by more than 3500 underprivileged children,” Roger said.

“It was wonderful working with the children – they were so vibrant and enthusiastic. They thanked us by sharing their music and dance with us, which was very special.”

Roger was particularly struck by how strongly community service is woven into the cultural fabric of Indian society.

“From an early age it is encouraged,” he said.

“In the schools children are taught to study hard, improve their lives and give back to the community.

“One local community school on the outskirts of Dharmasala was run by staff who worked purely as an act of service for the farming and labouring families. The school offered education to 120 village children and survived on fees of 200 rupees (A$15) per month per child.”

According to Roger, education is considered the greatest gift possible for these children and the nation.

“Working in the schools and villages gave me an insight into how the underprivileged majority of the world’s population live.

“Volunteer work is a great experience for any person wanting to broaden their outlook.”

The final week of the adventure was spent trekking into a remote village to assist on a free health camp run by an American homeopathic doctor.

The clinic was set up on a dusty street with no facilities or shade, yet gives villagers free consultations and medicine.

From here the two travellers made their way back home to Coffs Harbour via the Tibetan colony of Bir.

Both Roger and Wendy say they are very happy to be back in this beautiful part of the world.

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