A Helping Hand From Q Hair & Beauty’s Senior Designer
When Rachel Waller, a senior designer at Q Hair and Beauty in Chichester, took a long-planned ‘holiday’ in late February and March, it certainly wasn’t a leisurely break. It began with two-and-a-half weeks of hard labour in the sweltering heat of a poverty-stricken part of Uganda as a volunteer at a school for 500 children, many of them orphans.Then it was off to the chilly heights of the Himalayas where Rachel tackled a daunting trek to Everest base camp, raising well over £3,000 in sponsorship for Alzheimer’s Research.
It doesn’t end there, however. Rachel is back on the salon floor but her time in Africa and Nepal has inspired her to plan future volunteering. Later this year or early in 2019 she hopes to spend another spell working at the school in Africa and has already started fundraising towards a school she hopes to help build for Nepalese children in Kathmandu.
This Year’s Trip
During this year’s spell in Uganda, she and her partner Danny devoted most of their time to looking after the children at the development school which has 500 pupils aged all the way from two years to 16, including about 200 boarders. The day began with serving up porridge for the youngsters’ breakfast – for many of them who do not board this is the only meal they will have all day.
Rachel and Danny then spent their days creating a swing site and a football field and in the evening they taught sport, introducing the children to rounders. “It was all about being there for the children, putting a smile on their faces,” Rachel says. “They literally have absolutely nothing and the school is so short of equipment that the boarders sleep two or three in a bed, but they are the happiest young people I have ever met.
What They Took
“We took with us three suitcases packed with clothes and shoes and the school holds a market where these can be sold to bring in some money. They also try to raise desperately-needed funds in other ways. On the opposite side of the road is the lodge where we stayed and before we went I had no idea that beside it is a small medical centre, a sewing room, a little hairdressers and a workshop where a man makes flip flops from old car tyres.
“They are planning to set up a small restaurant and that’s a perfect fit for when Danny and I return to volunteer again – he’s a chef and I’m a hairdresser.
A Fundraising Page
“It was heartbreaking when the time came to leave, we both felt we hadn’t had enough time there. The boarders have a choir and they sang to welcome us and then again when we were departing – I stood there with tears rolling down my cheeks. “I’ve set up a fundraising page for the school on my Facebook – the children are so lovely and enormously grateful for anything you do for them. Danny wants to go back either in October or next January.”
She arrived in Nepal where she spent a few days exploring Kathmandu and realised the poverty there was just as severe since the country was slow to recover from the devastating earthquake in 2015. This was in the back of her mind as she set off for the start of the long and daunting trek to Everest base camp, flying on a tiny plan to Lukla, one of the most dangerous airfields in the world.
About The Trek
“There were 14 of us doing the trek, ranging in age from in their 30s to the oldest at 67 and raising money for a variety of different charities, along with a main guide, a Nepalese doctor who does it twice a year for his holidays, and six Sherpas,” she says.
“We carried our own day bags but our sleeping bags and other equipment were taken by yaks. “It was difficult going but gradual, six days to base camp and three days back down, a lot of it steep uphill stretches even when we were coming back down. We started at 2,800 metres and base camp is 5,364 so we had a couple of days along the way to acclimatise to the altitude. I’m fairly fit and it wasn’t quite as challenging physically as I had expected, but mentally it was much harder. You were always on edge, wondering if you would be able to make it all the way or if you might be sent back. The paths were very dry and dusty so you got grit in your throat and my throat became dreadfully sore.
The Danger Element
“There was the danger element too. In some parts the paths were very narrow, with a sheer cliff on one side and a sheer drop on the other. You often met yaks or mules coming down fast in the opposite direction and just had to pin yourself against the cliff wall and cling on. We saw a plaque saying that someone had been concentrating on taking photographs and was knocked off the path and never seen again.
“The suspension bridges were really scary and there were also yaks using them. The longest and highest one was absolutely terrifying.”
The higher the party climbed, the lower the temperature fell, a bit of a shock to the system for Rachel who had recently been in Uganda where it was over 30 degrees.
“We had set off from Lukla in shorts and t-shirts and it was like that for the first few days but the temperature steadily dropped and in the end we were wearing thermals. During the night it fell to about minus 16 degrees and we went to bed in our sleeping bags wearing several layers of clothing and two duvets on top but were still cold. We had metal hot water bottles filled with boiling water – by the time we woke up the water was frozen. “The wind chill took the temperature down to minus 35 degrees and the water we carried on our backs when we were walking would freeze.“The views were amazing and constantly changing – it seemed almost unreal. One minute you would be surrounded by cloud cover then the cloud would suddenly clear and you would see a huge mountain in front of you.
An Incredible Experience
“It was an incredible experience and wonderful to have raised over £3,000 for Alzheimer’s Research, but although I would do something like that again, I have other plans for what Danny and I might do in Nepal. With Global Challenge Adventures, the company that arranged my trek, you can choose which charity you want to raise funds for but they also have their own charity to help fund schools which are desperately needed as they haven’t been rebuilt since the 2015 earthquake. “The Nepalese have no money to buy new materials so the rubble of buildings which were destroyed has to be used and we hope to volunteer to go out and help with the rebuilding.”
We thank Rachel and Danny for sharing their inspiring story with us. You can also find out more about Q Hair and Beauty here.