These trekkers aim to raise educational levels in Kashmir


New Delhi : With donations on their mind, 61 employees of a global consumer goods company set out Tuesday on a five-day trek through Ladakh to identify the beneficiaries of the Rs.8.5 million they have raised to improve the educational standards of socially marginalised children in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Setting out from Stok, an hour’s drive from Ladakh capital Leh, the trekkers will cover 15 km a day to raise additional money from their sponsors that will eventually be disbursed through global NGO Save the Children, which is monitoring the project.

The highest point the trekkers will reach is the 4,878 metre Matho La pass as they travel from Mankyurmo to Gyangpoche. The trek will conclude in Leh, where the trekkers will spend two days visiting a Save the Children project to interact with the children and help renovate three schools in the area.

The trek is part of the Global Challenge initiative, started in 2006, involving employees of Reckitt Benckiser around the world.

This year, the trekkers had totally raised 215,000 pounds (Rs.17 million), far exceeding the 160,000 pounds target. Of this, half will be disbursed in Jammu and Kashmir and the other half for health care projects in Angola and Tanzania.

“The whole event will end up benefiting 24,000 children, aged 6-14 years,” a company statement said.

Last year, 50 Reckitt Benckiser employees had raised 180,000 pounds, twice as much as targeted, for Save the Children’s “Save 100,000 Lives” programme. Fifty percent of this money went to the NGO’s Child Domestic Worker’s programme in West Bengal, ensuring a better life for 780 children.

Each participant in the Global Challenge had to raise a minimum amount of money: 2,500 pounds for those from developed countries and 1,200 pounds for those from developing countries.

The bulk of the trekkers come from Britain and the US, while two are from India. The participants raised the amount through their own ingenious means. For example, Katherine Twomey organized a half marathon in her home country New Zealand.

The money raised will not be disbursed directly by the trekkers, but through the NGO, which has an MIS (Management Information System) in place to ensure it is well spent. This will be backed up by regular visits to the beneficiaries.

“They (trekkers) have worked very hard to raise funds,” Chander Mohan Sethi, the chairman and managing director of Reckitt Benckiser (India), who flagged off the trekkers here over the weekend.

“They have made a substantial contribution in helping improve children’s lives. They are an inspiration to all of us,” Sethi added.

Thomas Chandy, the CEO of Save the Children India, too lauded the trekkers efforts.

“Reckitt Benckiser is a responsible corporate citizen. You rarely see employees get out and raise funds… get out and engage in areas they want to work with,” Chandy said.

Asked what drove them, one of the trekkers said the smiles on the faces of the children was their reward.

“Once you see the smile on the faces of children you are helping you feel you have been rewarded and you understand the impact you have on them,” said the Italian trekker who is participating in the event for the second time.

Save the Children is an independent organization that focuses on children’s rights and ameliorating the lives of children around the world. It is part of a 27 member global alliance and works in more than 120 countries.

Save the Children India is part of the alliance. It operates where the education system is weak and where there is a high prevalence of child labour so as to persuade employers to provide children an education. In West Bengal, for instance, the NGO has made eight brick kilns which declare themselves child labour free.

Reckitt Benckiser, in collaboration with Save the Children, is now in the process of deciding next year’s Global Challenge.