Today, Girlahead concentrates on the mountain country of Nepal. The nation’s premier Kathmandu-based globalists are the Chaudhary family. Patriarch Binod Chaudhary conveniently has three astute business-minded sons, and just like, in earlier times, Baghdad-born David Sassoon sent his sons, in his case EIGHT male offspring, to different parts of the world, so Binod Chaudhary allocates responsibility to his sons. It is Rahul Chaudhary, for instance, who has overseen the purchase of two Fairmont properties, including the iconic Norfolk, in Nairobi. Both these Kenya hotels will continue as Fairmont.
The Chaudhary family also have holdings back in Nepal, and this brings our today’s story up there, to Kathmandu. Zara Balfour (shown above) is a London-based film-maker who has become passionately involved in Nepal. Here she speaks in her own words:
‘Parents in Nepal villages often voluntarily forgo seeing their children grow up – bidding farewell to their wide‑eyed four-year-olds as they set off for a school hundreds of miles away in Kathmandu – in the knowledge that they will be 16 or 17 when they next set eyes on them. Assuming, that is, they ever see them again’, she says. She first learned about Snowland Ranag Light of Education School in Kathmandu in 2014 and made them the subject of Children of the Snow Land . This traced three students as they made the epic journey home for the three-month break between Secondary Education Exams, sat at 16, and starting two-year School Leaving Certificate courses.
Children of the Snow Land won multiple awards and secured movie release. But Zara Balfour wanted to do more, so she founded Snowland Journeys, to enable students to make the trek to (and from) their villages, financially enabled by bespoke treks for small groups of paying guests. The cost of the guests’ trips – a tough trek, with up to seven hours’ walking each day, some of it at altitudes of 5,000m – includes that of the students’ journeys home, and additional sponsorship and charitable contributions will go to support the children through higher education, workplace training and developing the villages. There are also rare opportunities to visit such monasteries as Shey Gompa and the extraordinarily beautiful Yangser Gompa, and perhaps glimpse a snow leopard. Some stars of Children of the Snow Land are, at their request, being trained by Snowland Journeys as guides and development staff, and they will be accompanying treks and offering insights into the culture and customs of this remote and beautiful area.
One of the movie’s students, incidentally, is Tsering Deki, now studying fashion. This is a popular career choice in Nepal because of the country’s textile industry – and Kathmandu-raised, New York-based designer Prabal Gurung, whose designs have been worn by Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge, is a hero for many. Another Snowland School alumnus graduates from medical school this year and plans to return home to establish the first permanent doctor’s practice in his mountainous village. www.childrenofthesnowland.com www.snowlandjourneys.com