Skip to main content

Nepalese villagers embrace running as a way to raise spirits and money for earthquake recovery

Running for recovery Nepalese girls run every day
Nepalese girls who have taken to running before dawn every day.

ABC News: Kirsty Nancarrow

ADVERTISEMENT

The urge to run is an instinctive reaction in an earthquake, but Nepalese expatriate Som Tamang has taken that one step further by creating a charity event to raise money for quake victims in his home village near Kathmandu.

Cairns-based Som Tamang is no stranger to charity work, having founded Friends of Himalayan Children (FHC), which aims to halt child labour and slavery.

On April 25, 2015, Mr Tamang lost his brother Amber in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that killed almost 9,000 people.

Shortly after the disaster he returned home to Batase, his family's remote mountain village north-east of Kathmandu, to find the children's hostel built by FHC had been reduced to rubble.

Rescuers search for survivors of a second deadly quake in Nepal
Rescuers search damaged buildings on the outskirts of Kathmandu in 2015.

AFP: Prakash Mathema

As he was already a committed distance runner himself, he decided it was a good time to bring his passion to the struggling villagers.

"Because it benefited me to heal and to recover from all the losses and everything going on around me, I believed that it would do the same for my villagers," he said.

He said many children in Batase had since embraced running, rising before dawn most days to train ahead of their long days at school and in the fields.

Many of them will take part in Ultra-Trail Nepal on January 13.

Among them will be Samjhana Tamang, 20, who has left her servant's role in Kathmandu to pursue running and a career in the Nepalese Army.

"For the first week, my whole body was in pain but after that, when I ran and ran, continuously I felt my mind was fresh, peaceful and powerful," she said.

Many quake-affected homes still not rebuilt

Last year, Mr Tamang returned to Batase to stage the inaugural trail-running event to raise money for earthquake-affected communities.

Almost two years after the quake hit, he said the slow release of funds by the Nepalese government meant most people had still not rebuilt their homes.

This year, the 65-kilometre race dubbed the 'Run for Recovery' has attracted a field of 50 international trail runners, while more than 500 villagers from remote mountain communities will also take part in associated running events.

Mr Tamang said many girls from the village had no running shoes but were so passionate about the sport they wrapped old clothes around their feet to protect them from the rocky terrain in order to train.

Friends of Himalayan Children founder Som Tamang training
Som Tamang took his love of running to the people in his home village of Batase.

ABC News: Kirsty Nancarrow

He said he hoped to rectify that problem with the help of Australian ultra trail champion Majell Backhausen through a program dubbed Sharing Soles, in which people donate shoes for runners in Nepal.

"In the next five years we hope to find shoes for every young girl and boy from remote villages," Mr Tamang said.

Meanwhile, a new children's hostel in Batase being built from donor funds is nearing completion.

It will accommodate up to 100 children who've lost one or both parents.

"In terms of getting help to build schools and rebuild our hostel here in Batase ... it has been great, especially the local community in Cairns has been wonderful," he said.

It will be a welcome relief, as a temporary hostel built after the earthquake is at capacity with 35 children and more arriving all the time.

"We can't turn [them] away, we can't send them back because it's just a message for [human] traffickers that now they can pick this young girl so they can make extra money."

A larger Ultra Trail event has been organised for the earthquake anniversary on April 25 and will become an annual event.