48 hours after our Big Hearts for Nepal fundraiser and I am left in post adrenal recovery still feeling the buzz and energy of a hugely successful night.
The nerves, anxiety and yes sometimes lack of sleep and extra grey hairs in the lead up to organising an event like this one honestly had me concerned the night would be a small one (ha! How wrong I was!). It was quite the opposite.
The event suddenly arrived, ticket sales happened (80 people!) and by 7pm on Saturday the 6th of August we had a room full of people united together for one common goal – to raise funds for Himalayan Development Foundation Australia. Their mission resonates with so many – to offer a brighter future to the children of Nepal. We had many people in the room that night who had visited Nepal and had a strong connection to the people and the culture they had experienced, this alone brought them in numbers. Then there were many like me who have never been and can’t wait to get there in November. Hearing about HDFA and what we would encounter in post-earthquake Nepal would be even more relevant and meaningful to our preparation.
With a massive 7 raffles on offer, 4 silent auction items and a guess the lollipops challenge, we had a huge number of individuals and businesses who donated collectively over $3000 of goods and services to the evening. That didn’t include our 72 bottles of wine which was donated anonymously as well.
As our guests arrived, the room filled with an enormous amount of energy – the kind of energy you would find where incredibly generous and caring people get together. There was laughter, chatter and a fabulous vibe. It was heart-warming and encouraging and gave a feeling of unity.
After a sensational entrée we were off to a cracking start. Raffle ticket sales boomed as our first 4 raffles went on sale. Ticket purchasing was frenzied and full-on with tickets selling $2 a piece or 3 for $5. Concurrently, door prize tickets were handed out and believe me, no-one wanted to miss out on the 2 door prizes on offer, a 2 night stay in a cabin at Pichi Richi Park in the stunning Flinders Ranges or the chocoholics gift basket kindly donated by Yankalilla Foodland.
We invited our guest speaker, Duncan Chessell to the mic to share his inspiring connection with Nepal, from his climbing days to the work of Himalayan Development Foundation Australia.
Before the devastating earthquake in 2015, HDFA were already working in remote villages of Nepal, such as Ghunsa – 4 days walk from the nearest road – building a school for children who board there for most of the year. These children travel from even more remote locations in Nepal to receive their education – boarding there is their only option. Teachers there look after these children 24/7 and only receive a 2 month break at the end of the school year (being an ex-teacher myself, I cannot fathom the exhaustion these teachers must feel!). Up to 7 children shared a bed (floor space) to sleep on before HDFA funded the building of sleeping quarters in the hostel area and classrooms that would be less exposed to the elements and a warm space to learn and thrive. Attendance and motivation to learn has increased immensely since the project started.
With the massive devastation of the 2015 earthquake, HDFA deployed some funds for immediate relief but with a focus on more sustainable community development, their focus shifted to the Sindhupalchok district. With over 590 schools damaged or destroyed in the earthquake they have assisted, with the help of Phase Nepal, to rebuild classrooms in the lower secondary schools of Chamuna Devi and Seti Devi. With the damage from the earthquake so extensive and the rebuild painfully slow (if able to happen at all) Nepal is at risk of having a generation of children and young people missing out on their entire schooling years. Most of us would not know what being completely uneducated at all would look like here in Australia – we know that education affords us the opportunity to improve our employment opportunities and life outcomes. The cycle of poverty and disadvantage simply continues without access to education. The footage shown and information shared by Duncan was thought provoking, challenging and yet knowing that every guest had contributed to the projects of bettering the lives of the children of Nepal left me more inspired than ever. There is still so much more we could do. Raising more funds to build that classroom for $13,000 – even funding $2,600 for training a new teacher – our $5,000 target will hopefully be reached and we can work towards raising it further.
During the presentation, the main course banquet dishes started to arrive – they remained untouched until Duncan finished speaking. The videos he shared and the stories of his experiences in Nepal had a room of 80 people hanging on to every word.
The main course was exceptional, with more amazing spice and warmth from hot pots and curries, keeping any winter chill at bay, plus rice and roti. Dessert finished our evening beautifully with Dalchini, a cinnamon ice-cream, traditional in the Himalayas was a nice way to cool off the heat of our banquet. The food and service from Taste of the Himalayas was exceptional.
As the final raffle tickets went on sale, again coins and notes were changing hands so fast, it was hard to keep up with who was buying what tickets. One thing was for sure though, the remaining prizes on offer were huge and many people dug deep to buy multiple tickets to increase their chances of winning in their chosen raffle.
As our final raffles were drawn (including the seemingly endless second chance draw that made me feel like a Bingo caller) we closed the silent auction and awarded those successful bidders their items. The lollipop jar was awarded to the one correct guesser. The final door prize was drawn and the evening closed with a round of applause for Dharma and his team from Taste of the Himalayas. With some very happy and satisfied guests, the feedback I received as people were leaving was encouraging, positive and heartfelt.
We love knowing we can make a difference in people’s lives through fundraising but it has even more of an impact on those who donate when they learn more about the cause they are supporting.
Hearing Duncan Chessell speak and share the work of HDFA was a highlight for many of us.
For the opportunity to share the vision of Big Heart Adventures and how we aim to change the world through travel, was also a greatly appreciated opportunity.
By the end of the evening we had raised just over $4,000 – to say we are elated with this effort is an understatement. We look forward to travelling to and trekking in Nepal to bring some much needed tourism dollars to the region and get a first hand account of how much more needs to be done, so we can share with others when we get home and provide more opportunities to the children of Nepal through fundraising for Himalayan Development Foundation Australia.