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Sunday 24 April 2016

‘The magnetism that draws you back’ - A message from Nepal to ShelterBox from supporter Deborah Holden, one year after Everest’s most deadly day
‘The magnetism that draws you back’ - A message from Nepal to ShelterBox from supporter Deborah Holden, one year after Everest’s most deadly day

While her sister Amanda decides the fate of contestants on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, ShelterBox supporter Deborah Holden has returned to the scene of her narrowest escape. It is one year on from the deadly earthquake that triggered an Everest avalanche. She says, ‘Not coming back to Nepal was never an option’.

ShelterBox supporter Deborah Holden has sent a poignant message to the UK disaster relief charity from Everest base camp, saying, ‘To be here on the year anniversary is humbling.’

On 25 April 2015 Deborah had narrowly missed a 300 foot avalanche triggered by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed 9,000 people across Nepal. Fortuitously, altitude sickness had made her descend just three miles to Gorak Shep. Twenty two people were buried by falling ice and snow at base camp. It was the greatest single loss of life ever recorded on the world’s highest mountain.

After the avalanche Deborah trekked twelve miles to the village of Dingboche, on the Tibetan border, crossing a glacier still vulnerable to aftershocks and landslides. On her weary journey back to Kathmandu she saw international aid workers mounting their countrywide response. Among them was ShelterBox, the UK’s emergency shelter experts, providing tents for outdoor clinics, kits to help repair damaged buildings, even school materials for orphanages. It was to be one of the most complex and long-lasting disaster responses in the charity’s history.

Underwater photographer Deborah has since promoted the work of ShelterBox on TV and radio, and visited its Helston HQ not far from her parents’ home in Cornwall. She had escaped the tragedy on Everest, but there was anxiety for her family in the UK before she could get any message to them. Her sister Amanda, then a host of ITV’s This Morning programme, made an emotional live TV appeal for any information. When Deborah was finally reunited with her family she hadn’t slept for four days. 

Now, alongside her trekking companion from that fateful day, Simona Machova, she has returned to Everest base camp, and sent photos and a special message to ShelterBox. Deborah says, Not coming back to Nepal was never an option. Aside from the devastating earthquake there is a magnetism here that draws you back, and to be here on the year anniversary is humbling.’

‘I am impressed by the rebuild efforts we have seen en route. Charities such as ShelterBox have contributed immensely to the efforts, and what I have found very interesting is the different materials used. New buildings, at least on the Everest Base Camp route, are rebuilt with the traditional stone layer on the ground floor and each additional floor is made from wood and metal panels. It's been very important here to have the right tools and materials to rebuild. ShelterBox has supplied many villages not just with initial emergency supplies but also with equipment to enable the locals to rebuild themselves.’

‘However, there is still so much to be done, and with over four hundred aftershocks in the last year, Nepal needs to continue rebuilding with safer materials.’

In a recent partnership with the France-based Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED) ShelterBox provided durable shelter materials for 19,000 vulnerable people in the remote Dolakha district. The building materials were all sourced within Nepal.

As part of her trip Deborah Holden has fundraised over £5,000 to help rebuild Grimodya Primary School in remote Okhaldhunga region with UK charity Street Child.


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