Katja Staartjes is one of the most successful alpinists of the Netherlands. She was the first dutch woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Besides mountaineering, Katja is also a motivational speaker and Nepal-expert. After many visits, the Nepalese government appointed her as goodwill ambassador of the country in 2015.
In April 2015, Katja and her partner, Henk, started an expedition in West-Tibet. Nonetheless, this expedition had to end early due to the occurrence of a severe earthquake, which soon turned out to be extremely destructive. Katja and Henk were located only 80k from the epicenter of the worst affected areas.
Earthquake in Nepal
On April 25th 2015, Nepal was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter Scale. The earthquake killed more than 8.000 people and caused more than hundred thousand people to lose their homes. Due to the immense force of the earthquake, a lot of damage was done to the electricity grid, causing even more people to live without electricity and light. Only 43% of the population has access to electricity in Nepal. In deserted areas in the Himalayas 92% of the people have no or limited access to power and light, which is especially challenging during the dark nights. The proximity of the disaster, the grief, and their concerns for Nepal lead Katja en Henk to be committed to helping the victims of the disaster.
WakaWakas for the affected areas
The areas Helambu and Langtang, north of the capital Kathmandu, are heavily struck by the earthquake. An avalanche of snow, rocks and ice caused many houses to collapse and many people to lose their loved ones and friends. Furthermore, the local high school was completely destroyed after the earthquake. Katja and Henk collected money to rebuild the school and make the building earthquake resistant. They ensured 312 families were able to make use of sustainable solar energy by using WakaWaka’s. In december 2015, they visited the new school and distributed the WakaWaka lights.
After the visit, Katja and Henk continued their travels to the Solo region, 50k south of the Mount Everest. In the villages Mera (2700 m) and Khastap (2000 m) Katja en Henk contributed to rebuilding a medical post. Here, they also distributed WakaWakas to those affected by the earthquake.
Meet Mamita, Dilip Biswo, Lal Bahadur en Lakpa, receivers and users of a WakaWaka. They share their story and tell about the impact that the WakaWaka has on them.
Who: Mamita Rai
Where: The village of Kanku.
Impact: Mamita is a nurse in the medical centre in the village Khastap. Every day she travels 1,5 hours through the mountains by foot to get to work, and 1,5 hours back. In the winters it is often dark when she makes her way home. Thanks to her WakaWaka light she does not have to use her old torch to walk through the dark. By using the WakaWaka she saves batteries, meaning her current lifestyle is more sustainable for the environment. The medical centre where she works also received a WakaWaka Power+. The WakaWaka helps with charging the centre’s devices and when the power cuts, which tends to happen regularly, there is still light!
Who: Lakpa Doma Sherpa
Where: In the forest north of Kyama
Impact: Together with her husband and their cattle, Lakpa lives in the forest in a small hut. Together they make cheese and butter from the milk that their cattle produces. During the summer they migrate to a higher place in the mountains for the cattle to graze. Lapka and her husband do not have electricity, thus the WakaWaka is very beneficial for them. Especially during the nights and during their migration the WakaWaka helps a lot.
Who: Dilip Biswo Karma Rai
Where: In Mera
Impact: Dilip Biswo is from a poverty-striken family. He has two brothers and his father works in the Middle East, as he was not able to find a job in Nepal. Dilip uses his light at night to study. His family does not have electricity in their home, so the WakaWaka is used a lot by his family.
Who: Lal Bahadur Rai
Where: In the village of Khastap
Impact: Lal Bahadur works as a sherpa and cultivates small crops. During his work as a carrier he used to bring his lantern, however the lantern uses a lot of expensive batteries that were hard to afford for him. The WakaWaka is a great solution to bring during the long hikes. Besides now he can also charge his phone during work.
These donations were realized by the WakaWaka Community, Katja Staartjes, and outdoor & travel store Kathmandu. For every WakaWaka Base that was sold in a Kathmandu store, Katja was able to donate a WakaWaka light to her projects in Nepal.