Former Head Returns to Illustrate Nepal Plight
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Former Headmaster Mervyn Brooker returned to the Boys’ Division to talk to pupils about his recent trip to Nepal and the impact the earthquakes have had on the country. He had been trekking in the region just one week before the disaster occurred.
Mr Brooker began by explaining that he is not a climber, but got into trekking after leaving Bolton School. He has since travelled around the world to the Andes in South America, the Atlas Mountains in northern Africa, and of course to Nepal, which remains one of his favourite places. He explained to the assembled boys and staff why this place is particularly special with the aid of photographs he has taken during his trips there. He talked about the isolation of the mountainous regions of Nepal, where there is no traffic and the nights are almost eerily silent; and of the unique sights on offer thanks to the geography of the region and the fact that the Himalayas contain nine of the ten highest mountains in the world. He spoke of the difficulties of travelling in the Himalayas, as the landscape means that everything must be carried, and sometimes paths might be destroyed. Mr Brooker touched on the dangers faced by climbers and trekkers, from avalanches to falling rocks, altitude sickness, and even high-altitude yak trains that might push unwary visitors off the path if they get in the way! This was a really interesting way for the boys to learn more about little-known aspects of Nepal, the Himalayas and Everest.
He also talked about the fascinating culture and history of Nepal, describing and showing the Buddhist temples, mani walls made of prayer stones, and chortens built in significant locations in the mountains. He focused on the friendliness of the people who live there; for example, when his group was near Everest Base Camp in 2013, they were invited into the camp for a cup of tea!
This is one of the reasons why Mr Brooker has been inspired to do whatever he can to help the people of Nepal following the earthquakes. He showed the boys pictures of “some of the things that aren’t there any more” or that have been damaged by the natural disaster, including images of Patan Durbar Square, which has been featured in much of the media coverage of the earthquake, and the Monkey Temple.
After mentioning these famous locations, Mr Brooker then focused on the personal impact of the natural disaster. Since the first earthquake, he has been in email contact with two of the people he met during his visits to Nepal, and so he could give the boys an insight into what has happened to them. One lost his apartment in the first earthquake had to sleep in a tent with his family. Although many buildings were condemned or deemed uninhabitable, the family was able to move back into a neighbouring building, but when the second earthquake hit this also collapsed. As they had by then lost the tent, however, the family has been forced to sleep outdoors during the rains of the monsoon season since then. The second family fared slightly better, but their house was still very badly damaged. Nonetheless, they are now helping to coordinate aid efforts in the surrounding region.
Year 7 and 8 boys in Wigan House spent part of their morning climbing the height of Everest on the School’s stairs. The money raised in sponsorship will benefit both the Nepal earthquake and Make-A-Wish UK.
Mr Brooker thanked the boys for their contribution so far, and for the remaining fundraising efforts taking place in School. He then read out a message from his contact in Nepal who has been helping with the relief efforts, explaining how and where the money sent so far has been used to benefit the people who have been the worst affected by the earthquakes. He also gave details of what the next steps will be for those running the relief operations.