A trip to Nepal was an eye opener and never to be forgotten experience for one young woman from York.

Rachael Mason recently returned after a 28 day trip to the Himalayas through the World Challenge program. It was the second year that her school, Helena College, had sent senior students to Nepal as part of the Challenge.
"A friend went the first time and I only heard good things so I decided to go. "There were 16 students, two teachers and one World Challenge expedition leader on this year's trip," she said.

"We did a 10 day hike in the Annapurna sanctuary. "It was supposed to be 12 days but it snowed so we had to turn back early. "At the finish point on the second day we were at an altitude higher than anywhere in Australia. "Just being up amongst the mountains and the scenery was amazing, Rachael said.

"After the hike we spent six days at a local boarding school for disadvantaged children from surrounding mountain villages. "The school is run with donations from western countries. "Our group spent a lot of time in the classrooms teaching the children and learning about their culture. "They spoke incredibly good English so we could communicate easily," she said.

"While at the school we painted murals in the dining hall and helped with manual work. "We also gave some money to help speed up the building of a third floor which is for dormitories. "At the moment the kids have bunk beds in the dining hall and that is where they sleep," Rachael said.

"Other highlights of the trip included visits to a Tibetan refugee camp to see a carpet factory they use to earn an income; Durbar Square in Kathmandu to see the many temples and to Bhaktapur, a former capital of Nepal built in the 8th century," she said.
"We also rode on an elephant in Chitwan National Park and saw a rhino and its baby. "The other thing we noticed was the shopping. "Everything was really cheap and very different to anything in Australia as was the food which was incredible. "The hardest thing was saying goodbye to the friends we made and having to leave," Rachael said.
 She thanked the people in York and the York and Districts Community Bank who gave small donations and those who offered her jobs to help raise funds for the trip.

Rachael was joint winner of the 2014 Junior Citizen of the Year award for her work documenting with photography, more than 2,000 graves in the York cemetery.

Lindsay McNeill

TOP: Amazed by mountain scenery, Rachael in the Annapurna sanctuary.

ABOVE: Rachael with some friends she made at the boarding school during her trip.