A remote Nepalese village, shaken by two devastating earthquakes, has survived through the help of a Falkland mountaineer and his charity.
A former St Andrew’s High teacher – now heralded as the father of Phortse village thanks to the his generous efforts – is to highlight the plight of the people in the village for a BBC2 documentary airing on Sunday at 8pm.
James Lamb, mountaineer and professional photographer, is the only one providing aid to Phortse – including building ‘quake-resistant homes.
His passion to help was ignited when, on Everest in April 2014, the Khumbu icefall killed 16 sherpas.
“I was just above Everest base camp when an avalanche killed the men, leaving 54 kids, and their families, without an income.”
James met with a monk, Tashi Lama, who shared his desire to help support families of sherpas who had lost their lives while climbing and, together, they started to create the Little Sherpa Foundation.
Newtonmore-based film-maker Richard Else joined James as he returned to Phortse and, on their departure, the first shattering earthquake hit.
“The aftershocks tremoured as we were at the airport. We were ordered off the plane and just stood on the tarmac unsure what to do,” explained James. “Richard asked the pilot what would happen if another ‘quake hit while we were taking off and her cool response was ‘you don’t want me to answer that question’. We were given a short window to take off. It was terrifying.”
James described the aftershock of the second earthquake as the most harrowing day of his life, as he watched helpless from the UK.
Six months on, accompanied again by Richard and a BBC crew, James returned, travelling through the Everest region to discover the area had still received no official aid. Many people there face the harsh Himalayan winter with no homes. They would have no proper shelter, were it not for the tents provided by the Little Sherpa Foundation.
“The second earthquake devastated the area – buildings were destroyed completely. They just slipped into the valley,” he said. Battling the inevitable bureaucracy, James has brought tents, sleeping bags, clothing and financial help to the village.
They are now planning to rebuild many of the destroyed homes, designed, to be earthquake-resistant by Glasgow architect Murray Kerr. He said: “Murray, who won Grand Designs’ Architect of the Year, has offered to come on board and design eco-friendly, earthquake-resistent homes.
“These will be the first of their kind in Nepal and we are really excited about the project. We are delighted Murray has agreed to help, all for nothing.”
Falkland and Freuchie primary schools have rallied behind James’ efforts by raising £1700 for the Little Sherpa Foudnation. James said: “Local people have been an enormous support, as have MP Stephen Gethins and MSP Roderick Campbell.”
Mr Gethins said he was very impressed with the efforts being undertaken by the Little Sherpa Foundation after meeting volunteer James during a visit to Falkland Primary School.
“What James and his fellow volunteers do to support The Little Sherpa Foundation is important to people, particularly families, living in Phortse. Giving communities access to healthcare, better nutrition and education for children from school age through to college is really important in this rural area and helps give those living there, particularly the orphans of Sherpa fathers, a chance for the future. I was really pleased to meet James and delighted he has received a great deal of support from people in the Falkland area.”