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Everest with Mountain Madness

Changing Lives in Nepal

77 year old MM Trekker Bar­bara Ges­saman shares her expe­ri­ence on the Ever­est Base Camp Trek in Nepal and her last­ing rela­tion­ships and life-chang­ing expe­ri­ences she has had in Nepal as a result of trav­el­ling with MM Guide Deana Zabal­do and learn­ing about her social respon­si­bil­i­ty in Nepal.

Life chang­ing expe­ri­ences can hap­pen when and where you least expect them! I have been on two treks with Moun­tain Mad­ness to Ever­est Base Camp and on both treks our guide was the fab­u­lous Deana Zabal­do. My first trek was cut short before reach­ing Base Camp because I devel­oped Bron­chi­tis. The sec­ond trek was very suc­cess­ful, and I made it to Base Camp. On both treks, I learned a lot about Nepal from Deana and how ded­i­cat­ed she and Moun­tain Mad­ness are to help­ing the peo­ple of Nepal.

The kids are ready for school (Bar­bara on crutch­es with a twist­ed ankle — 
but that did­n’t slow her down much!) Bar­bara Ges­saman photo

Dur­ing the sec­ond trek I learned about the orphan­age that Deana and Moun­tain Mad­ness help sup­port — Lit­tle Angel’s Children’s Home. This home gives aban­doned and orphaned chil­dren a home, an edu­ca­tion, a fam­i­ly, and a future. I real­ly want­ed to go there and visit…but I had a plane to catch. As it turned out, I returned to Nepal a third time. This time I went as a vol­un­teer teacher in Chau­rikhar­ka, the vil­lage home of many of the Moun­tain Mad­ness staff. Since I was going to be in Nepal for 2 12 months, I would also have time to vis­it the orphan­age — WOW, I was excited.

THE VIS­IT Nan­ga Dor­je Sher­pa accom­pa­nied me on the vis­it to the Lit­tle Angel’s Children’s Home. I met Nan­ga on the first trek to base camp and stayed with him and his moth­er while I was teach­ing. The 3 hour trip to the orphan­age in a Land Rover was an adven­ture in of itself includ­ing a flat tire. Our first stop was the con­struc­tion site of the new orphan­age. What a beau­ti­ful, peace­ful place! The lease for the present house is com­ing to an end, and the chil­dren and house moth­ers need to feel the warmth of a Nepali home com­bined with a few mod­ern con­ve­niences. When we arrived at the present home the chil­dren had just got­ten back from school, they were eat­ing a snack, talk­ing and laugh­ing and get­ting ready to start on home­work. We had time to talk with all of the chil­dren and help with their home­work. Some of the old­er chil­dren were help­ing pre­pare din­ner. What a hap­py place and what hap­py faces on the chil­dren! It’s amaz­ing when you learn what some of these chil­dren have lived through. 

Read­ing at a table in the front yard. Bar­bara Ges­saman photo

Before dark we gath­ered the chil­dren for a group pic­ture. After the pic­ture, Nan­ga start­ed to talk to the chil­dren about his grow­ing up with­out a father, about stop­ping school way too soon, and how lucky they were to have a safe, lov­ing place to live. I swear the chil­dren lis­tened to Nan­ga talk with­out mov­ing a mus­cle for over a half hour. When Nan­ga fin­ished talk­ing, the chil­dren gath­ered around him and want­ed to touch him, or hold his hand and talk some more.

These lit­tle ones are tru­ly amaz­ing, and as we said good­bye the next day, they waved to us as they walked down the road to school. We want­ed to stay until they came back.

Neel, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the pro­gram (in red), talks to the chil­dren
and intro­duces Nan­ga Dor­je Sher­pa. Bar­bara Gess­mana photo

Thank you Deana, thank you Moun­tain Mad­ness, for open­ing up this world to me. I hope to vis­it the Lit­tle Angel’s Children’s Home again this win­ter or sum­mer and to help with funds from the U.S. for the con­struc­tion of the new orphan­age building!