By Giles Shearing
In 2003 I travelled to Nepal. I did not venture too far into the hills as Maoist rebels had made some remote areas unstable.
Since the end of the rebel uprising in 2006 however, Nepal became a republic in 2007, loosening ruling ties with the monarchy, implementing a constitution in 2015 as well as taking bold political steps. They abolished the death penalty and ensuring equal rights for LGBT individuals, for example.
On April 25, 2015, approximately one year ago, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, only to be followed by a second 7.3 magnitude quake two weeks later on May 12. Over 8,000 people were killed and more than 21,000 people were injured.
Nepal is about the six times smaller than British Columbia but has close to 28 million people, six times more than B.C. Kathmandu, the capital city, hosts approximately one million and the next largest city Pokhara, is home to approximately 250,000 people. The remainder of 26 million or so populous lives in smaller towns spread out throughout the country.
One such remote area is the Tsum Valley in the Manaula Conservation Area, a 5–6 day walk or helicopter ride away from Aarughat Bazar, a nine-hour drive from Kathmandu.
After the earthquake, Tsum’s residents lost 90 percent of their homes. Although money came into the country and lots of good has been accomplished, there is still a serious problem of funds reaching the neediest. The country has also been crippled in recent months by unofficial sanctions from India, limiting the flow of petrol, a serious issue.
My personal connection to Tsum came from my friend Lama Pema, abbot of Thrangu Monastery who visited Revelstoke last fall to provide introduction to meditation teachings. I’ve also maintained contact with Nepalese friends in Vancouver. After the earthquake, Lama travelled to Nepal to assist with earthquake relief and he provided me updates from his birthplace in Tsum.
This winter I met Jane Marshall, an explorer and writer from Edmonton who had trekked in the Tsum Valley (and written a book about her journey) and started a grassroots charity called the Compassion Project to fund a medical clinic in the valley.
I found myself feeling drawn to the people of Tsum by way of my connections and the similarities to our own mountain community.
Both Tsum and Revelstoke sit nestled in valleys surrounded by majestic mountains. Both have small populations relative to the concentrated populace of the country. Both have the ongoing risk of isolation from natural disasters and both have an enduring spirit that seeks to thrive right where we are. We are of course much more economically prosperous thanks to our blip along the Trans-Canada highway. Tsum has no such road.
We’re given opportunities in life to connect with strangers and undertake random acts of kindness. Thanks to the Compassion Project, we can be sure our donations are ending up exactly where they are needed.
I welcome everyone to attend Saturday’s fundraiser from 7–9 p.m. at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre. The night is packed with two great presenters, a welcome meditation, fresh chai, a great film that takes place in Tsum, a silent action and many other surprises!
Many kind and generous businesses owners have ensured that the silent auction tables will be packed, including Trans-Canada Fitness, Ebb & Flow Mandalas, The Cabin, Jade Mountain Wellness, Garnish, Free Spirit Sports, Tim Hortons, BodyLogic Massage, Paintings by Cecilia, Tantrum Ride Co., Beth Perser Massage, Infinite Power Sports, Sangha Bean, Balu Yoga, Jane Marshall and Thrangu Monastery.
Jigme Wangchuk, aka Giles Shearing (host).
Event Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/262607934071522/?active_tab=posts
Compassion Project: http://www.compassionfortsum.ca/stories