Traumatic trip leads to Bright Futures

Published:
01/01/2021

 

Mosman local Jacqui Holth was just 24 when she invited her new flame Torstein – whom she met while working on yachts in the Caribbean – to spend a couple of weeks with her in Nepal.

They’d shared a romantic week together after first crossing paths in Antigua and then went six long months without seeing each other, before Jacqui sent him a fax (it’s 1996 after all) asking him to join her on this adventurous trip.

Together again, this loved-up young couple were having the time of their lives when, in the second week of their stay, they decided to go whitewater rafting in remote far western Nepal. The Bardia National Park boasts spectacular wilderness, and is considered one of the best places in the world to see Bengali tigers in their natural habitat.

Unfortunately, during this expedition, Torstein fell desperately ill. Most suggested it was a bad case of ‘Delhi belly’ or food poisoning, but Jacqui felt it was much worse than that. There were no phones, no internet, and no available transport where they were, and to make matters worse it was a 27-hour bus ride to Kathmandu. Torstein was falling in and out of consciousness.

So, Jacqui rushed to the nearest homestay and pleaded for help from the Khadka family living there. While the locals’ English was limited, they could recognise the distress and urgency of the situation. 

Their teenage son Bikram found a couple of bikes and he and Jacqui rode furiously through dense jungle in search of a vehicle – even in one instance having to swerve off a track to avoid an Indian elephant.

Eventually, they found and ‘borrowed’ a vehicle and managed to get Torstein to the nearest airport and on to Kathmandu just in time – where he had life-saving surgery to prevent his intestine rupturing into his stomach cavity.

As with all incredible stories, there is so much more to it, and North Shore Living could have sat there for hours listening to Jacqui recall the chain of events. Like, how she had to sleep on a wooden door in the hospital for ten days, or the three blokes in a local bar she found to donate blood for Torstein; or the moment she rang Torstein’s mother (a total stranger at the time) from a number in the back of his passport to tell her that her son was gravely sick.

The pair have now been happily married for 20 years, and they have spent much of that time thanking the people that helped saved Torstein’s life. But none held a more special place in their hearts than the Khadka family from Bardia, and that brave youngster Bikram.

All of which is why their son Aymon – who just graduated from Redlands – was given the middle name of Bardia.

It’s also why, when the Holths found out that Bikram and his father had started an English-speaking school from their own home – they saw an opportunity to repay them.

She asked Bikram what he needed for his school, and then got to work establishing the fundraising campaign Bright Futures of Bardia.

“Since launching in 2018, we have raised enough funds to buy some land, build a toilet block, five brand new classrooms, a science lab, library, early learning centre and a computer lab,” Jacqui reveals.

She explains that a lack of education can lead to child trafficking, child labour and child marriage – all too prevalent near the India border. 

As such, their campaign right now is all about sponsorship to get kids back in school post-COVID.

Incredibly, you can send a child in Bardia to school for a whole year for just $350.

“This started as my way to say thank you to them for saving my husband’s life, but it’s grown well beyond that,” she says.

“On a recent trip, we spoke with several children to understand what they want to do with their education. Not one of them said a new car, a new house, a holiday, or money. Instead, they all want to return to their village with their new skills and make a difference to their community.”

To learn more or to donate visit chuffed.org./project/bright-futures-of-bardia.

Author:
Joe McDonough, Editor-in-Chief, North Shore Living Magazine

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