I started writing these deVOLfolk blogs so that you could get to know the lovely people behind deVOL, and although Rachel technically isn’t a deVOL employee, she is definitely one of the team and she’s doing something pretty amazing that I thought you might like to learn a bit more about…
R A C H E L C R A W F O R D
P R O D U C T I O N A S S I S T A N T
If you’ve visited Cotes Mill you’ve probably seen Rach wandering around with a huge grin on her face chatting away to everyone she bumps into, she’s one of those beautifully bubbly people that make you happy just by being around them. Rach actually works for our sister company, Shreddies, making their flatulence filtering pants, but when she’s not at the sewing machine she’s always doing lots of amazing things to help those less fortunate than herself. Last year she was so shocked by the pictures of the devastation caused by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, that she decided to go out there by herself and do what she could to help. During that time she met some other brilliant volunteers and together they set up Nepal Mountain Aid, a programme that aims to rebuild the communities in some of the poorest and most remote mountain villages in Nepal.
Rachel with Jordane and Janet
So how did Nepal Mountain Aid come about?
I met Janet, Jordane and Mark last year, we were all in Nepal alone for different reasons and were lucky enough to cross paths. The relief work we did last time together was so successful that we decided to team up once again and that’s when Nepal Mountain Aid was born. We wanted to set something up where all the money donated would go directly towards purchasing the necessary essentials for survival and were trying to think of a way that our efforts could have a lasting impact on these families’ lives.
Rachel with some of the village community
What are your aims when you return this year?
In November we will be heading back to Nepal with the hope of helping two villages heavily affected by last year’s earthquake. Both villages are made up of predominantly lower caste people that have minimum access to employment opportunities and therefore have little or no income. With everyone’s help we would like to build a future for these people. Our aim is to provide each family with a female goat and both villages with communal male goats. This will help to provide them with a long lasting income which will improve the standard of living and make education more attainable for the children of these villages.
One of the mountain villages Rachel visited last year
You volunteered by yourself last year, was it not scary travelling to another continent alone?
Never having done anything on my own before, Nepal was quite a big step for me. (This is the girl who usually isn’t trusted to handle her own passport!) It took me a few weeks to really start to feel comfortable and there were lots of days when I questioned if I could handle 6 weeks. But then I started to meet so many interesting people who I am now lucky enough to count as close friends. I ended up extending my stay to 12 weeks and although spending time away from my family and friends was one of the hardest challenges, the support from everyone was so overwhelming I was sure I was making the right decision. Every single person went above and beyond to help me and make this dream become reality.
Rachel with some of her friends from the village
Apart from your family and friends, what did you miss most from the UK?
I’m an English girl, so of course I missed a good old cup of Earl Grey! This time I shall be packing my Twinings in the hopes that the electricity cuts are fewer so I can whisk myself back to England in a china teacup when needed.
Rachel greeting everyone in Nepalese
What were the best bits of being part of the relief effort?
The little things! Seeing a child’s face in amazement as you hand them a bouncy ball to keep. The tough kids at the children’s home taking my hand for the first time. Shop keepers learning my name and smiling everyday as I trot past. The Tibetan ladies crossing the road to hug me when I had a bad day. Plus of course a few bigger things – providing relief packages to 65 families affected by the earthquake and delivering presents on Christmas morning to the street kids.
Rachel and the team giving out care packages after the 2015 earthquake
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about volunteering abroad?
Do lots of research! Look for different charities and organisations, be sure you know exactly what you get for your money and where the rest of the funds go. Unfortunately some places charge a huge amount and only a small percentage actually goes to the people who need it. I myself couldn’t afford this, so I decided to book a flight and organise everything without a third party. Just make sure that the place you will be volunteering is legitimate. I’d also recommend looking at the customs of the country you’re travelling to and learn the dos and, more importantly, the don’ts! That way you won’t bring any unwanted attention to yourself or offend anyone unintentionally. Most information is online, if dig deep enough then you will find everything you need.
Rachel going to school with children from the village
And for those of us back in the UK, what can we do to help?
Spread the word! The best way to support Nepal is to get what we’re doing out there. Any donation, big or small, makes a huge difference, I mean, the cost of a blanket that fits a whole family is only £6 – so everything really does help! Alternatively – VISIT NEPAL! It’s safe to travel and one of the most amazing destinations. The people are some of the kindest I believe this world has to offer.
Rachel taking in the true beauty of Nepal
We are so proud of Rachel and will be supporting her and the team in their efforts to make a real difference. If you would like to learn more about Nepal Mountain Aid or make a donation, you can visit their Go Fund Me page here. It costs just £40 to buy a goat that will change a family’s life and they will even name it after you, or a name of your choice. Although, as Rach said, any help you can give is massively appreciated and really will go a long way towards rebuilding these communities.