A post by Jane Marshall.
This May 2017, Compassion Project team member Lopsang and I took a group of seven trekkers to Tsum Valley. It was my first time back since 2012 when I was there writing my book Back Over the Mountains. It felt like a dream at times, seeing places that had made such a huge impact on me. Until you've been to Tsum it's hard to imagine its beauty. It's also hard to imagine its remoteness, and how vulnerable you feel knowing there is very limited medical care available. People routinely die from easily treatable issues like diarrhea and even broken bones.
Our group took a full day jeep ride from Kathmandu to Arughat along a bumpy, wild-track road. Then, we began our six day trek to Tsum. We diverted from the old trail into the jungle twice due to new road construction and earthquake damage. We moved from plus 30 Celsius sub-tropical jungle to the alpine environment of Tsum and donned down jackets and hats. When we rose up the final ridge and entered upper Tsum, we passed through prayer flags floating in the wind and I was reduced to tears. Finally I had come home, for that's what Tsum feels like to me.
We got to stay in local homes and temples, to see how women cook and boil tea on cast iron stoves, and how they use firewood collected from the mountains by hand and dried yak dung patties to fuel the fire. Life in Tsum feels almost medieval, and incredibly connected to the environment. Though things are starting to change with increased tourism.
Compassion Health Centre
We made our way to Lamagaun village and soon saw the sign for the health centre. Lama Pasang, the village lama (teacher/guide) was there to greet us with katas (prayer scarves).
He invited us into his home, and three women dressed in their best chubas and Tibetan-style hats serenaded us with a traditional song and offered us rice whisky in burled wood and silver cups.
We were all in tears by this gesture of thanks, especially John McKinnon. He climbed with Sir Edmund Hillary years ago and is an integral part of Himalayan Trust. They build clinics and schools in the Everest region and now John was seeing us do the same in Tsum. We were honoured to have John with us.
We then got a tour of the health centre. It was well stocked with medicine purchased by your donations, and we were able to deliver eyeglasses from Respectacle (organized by the fearless nurse Rachel Frazin).
Me, Tenzin (who does loads of volunteer work applying for permits and organizing documents), and Lama Pasang.
Dolma Sherpa, Health Assistant
Just before we got to Tsum we learned that Dinesh, our health worker, would be ending his position with us. We want to thank Dinesh for his hard work and for serving Tsum with such care for almost two years. We took the opportunity of having the helicopters flying up for the trek to bring in a new health worker.
Dolma Sherpa is a strong young woman who completed her education at Shree Mangal Dvip School in Kathmandu. She is a registered Health Assistant and graduated with distinction. We are so thankful to have her.
The day Dolma flew up I had food poisoning, but our group got great photos of her. One very special thing happened that day. My teacher, Drakar Rinpoche, was in Tsum (where he was born) and was able to greet her along with Lama Pasang. I consider it a huge blessing.
We wish Dolma the best of luck in her new position. We believe having Dolma at the clinic will inspire local girls to fulfill dreams of education. Also, women will likely feel comfortable having another woman able to address female health issues and birthing care. Dolma is Himalayan (different from Nepali culture) so she speaks the same dialect of Tibetan as Tsum people. So communication and cultural connection will be wonderfully matched.
Our group learned so much about Tsum during this cultural immersion trek. If you'd like to be put on a list for future treks, please email me, Jane Marshall, at email@example.com.
Also, we are looking for volunteers to provide care at the health centre. If you are in the field of medicine, acupuncture, or massage and are looking for a service adventure, please reach out to us. Tsum gives more gifts than one can imagine.
View the photos below to see the medical supplies that got shipped up and other Tsum images.
More updates to come. Stay tuned!