Rachael trekking in Nepal

Rachael trekking in Nepal

This is a guest post by Rachael Fisher Hart, a British Red Cross supporter

On 29 January I’ll be facing one of the biggest challenges of my life: climbing Mt Kilimanjaro to raise funds for the British Red Cross.

Another challenge, and the British Red Cross worker who supported me when I needed it most, inspired me to take on this hard but rewarding adventure.

When the earth shook in Nepal

2015 was meant to be the gap year I never had. By February I was in Nepal and by March I had reached Everest base camp. In April I was on a 21-day trek passing over the world’s highest mountain pass.

On the morning of 25 April my guide and I were descending into a gorge between two villages. Suddenly the ground shook hard for two whole minutes and we lost our footing. Luckily, we escaped with just a few cuts and bruises.

We had no choice but to keep walking for an hour to reach the next village. Soon we began to hear news of people being killed in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. Still, I didn’t know then that the country had endured a 7.9 magnitude earthquake, its worst for 80 years.

Sadly, my guide learned that his family’s house was badly damaged and his uncle had been killed. Faced with disrupted telephone service and internet access, we decided to make the four-day trek to the nearest city in just two days. I was lucky to be able to speak to my mum during this time: she hadn’t slept in days.

I hardly knew Kathmandu

Collapsed building in Kathmandu with soldiers and civilians clearing rubble

Thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed in the earthquake
© Carl Whetham/IFRC

When we finally got to Kathmandu, the city was so badly damaged that I hardly knew it. Only then did I realise that I needed help.

At the British Embassy I met Linda, a Red Cross worker who had been sent there to provide emotional support for those seeking refuge. I was physically and emotionally exhausted with no idea of how I was going to get home.

Linda was there to listen and reassure me that everything was going to be OK. In such a difficult situation, she passed no judgement and seemed to understand everything I said. Talking to her felt like talking to my mum.

That night I was sick. First thing in the morning she offered me a cup of a tea and put her arm around me as the ambassador announced plans to evacuate us back to the UK. I can’t explain how significant those small gestures were – I’m not sure if I could have dealt with everything that had happened on my own.

Doing something extraordinary

Rachael and Daniel at their wedding

Rachael and Daniel at their wedding
©Alicia Canter for the Guardian

In the days and weeks after arriving home, I often found myself thinking of Linda and was very happy when I managed to get in touch with her again.

I got married to my husband Daniel in June and we knew that we wanted to do something extraordinary together. Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro to support the British Red Cross seemed like the perfect challenge.

I want to say “thank you” to an organisation that helped me personally when I needed it most and to support their incredible work around the world every day. This includes supporting people in Nepal to get through the winter, and rebuild their homes and livelihoods in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Red Cross workers giving a self-recovery shelter kit to a woman in Nepal

Self-recovery shelter kits have helped thousands in Nepal
© Poul Henning Nielsen/Danish Red Cross

As for training to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, well, that’s what Daniel and I will focus on this Christmas holiday. We are both regular runners and have planned some hill walks to soften up our trekking boots. They’ll also balance out all the mince pies that we will be eating!

· You can sponsor Rachael and Daniel to climb Mt Kilimanjaro – the world’s tallest freestanding mountain.
· Want to take a on a challenge yourself? See how we can help.
· Learn more about our work in Nepal.
· Learn more about how the British Red Cross provides psychosocial support in emergencies.