For this woman, what began as globe-trotting in 2007 turned into something more significant and meaningful after a trip to the Himalayas in 2011.
From being a holidaymaker, event planner Hew Chei Wei became a fundraiser, too. She has taken an interest in the welfare of impoverished Nepali villagers and hopes to make their lives better.
“I visited Nepal for the first time in 2011. (After that) I vowed to visit it once a year for its spectacular mountains and wonderful people,” said Hew, 36, of Bahau, Negri Sembilan.
She lived overseas (Thailand, China and Vietnam) for most of her 15-year working life. Last year, she formed an event company in Malaysia after leaving her last job as general manager of a trading company in Bangkok, Thailand.
In April 2015, as Hew was planning her annual trip to Nepal, a massive earthquake struck the land. Suddenly, all her Nepali friends became homeless.
Hew and her friends in Thailand and Malaysia decided to do whatever they could to help. They managed to raise US$5,000 (RM20,210) for five Nepali families.
She said: “In the process of fundraising, I realised that the country that I’m so fond of is one of the poorest nations on Earth. Even before the earthquake, thousands of non-government organisations in Nepal were helping the local community. We could not imagine the impact of the earthquake on the impoverished locals, particularly those who live in mountainous and remote areas.”
After the earthquake, she visited Nepal to check on her friends, and supported them by engaging the services of the Nepalis.
In 2016, Hew organised another fundraising campaign as she was planning to visit one of the earthquake-affected villages to lend support.
Last year, Hew returned to Nepal for trekking. On the way to Annapurna Base Camp, she spoke to her friend Raj Shrestha, who is a social worker and mountain guide. They decided to work together to help the local people.
After months of discussions, the One Village charity project was launched on Jan 27 this year. Hew, Raj and Y.J. Wong, Hew’s childhood friend of 23 years, are the co-founders.
“One Village is about focusing on one village at a time. The project aims to send needy children to schools and rebuild homes,” said Hew, adding that the principles of the project are education and sharing.
Hew said the project aims to assist poverty-stricken families to send their children to school by paying their school fees, as well as for their meals and transport. It also aims to help rebuild homes and infrastructure.
And so, they channelled their energy to help out in Raj’s village of Batase, in Sindhupalchok district. Batase, which is 80km from Kathmandu, is one of the many remote and impoverished villages in central Nepal.
“The road conditions in Batase are not for the faint-hearted – they’re serpentine, rocky and dusty. It takes about six hours to get there from Kathmandu if the traffic is good. The locals are like any other locals in the mountainous areas. They can only do farming as there aren’t any other job opportunities,” Hew said.
“Some villagers are still living in temporary shelters, since the earthquake, as they’re too poor to rebuild their homes. Even Raj’s home has not been rebuilt yet and is still a shambles.”
From March 22 to 28 this year, Hew and her friends, Keu Tien Siong and Deric Wong, went on a field trip to Batase and visited three local schools. Keu and Wong are also advisors of One Village. During their trip, they talked to the local people to ensure that funds raised would be used appropriately.
Hew said this year, the project aims to raise at least US$10,000 (RM38,887) for the children’s education and the rebuilding of one villager’s home.
In March, One Village’s first fundraising event, Support Dany Ling Titi Ultra 200km, raised RM15,000. Hew’s friend Ling, 38, a businessman, is a veteran ultra runner. He is also One Village’s ambassador.
Friends were encouraged to pledge a sum of money for every kilometre that Ling covered; he ran 107km in 20 hours. More than 60 people supported this campaign.
Their second fundraiser, in April, was called “CKT (Char Kway Teow) by Ar Alan Teh”. Teh, an award-winning Malaysian architect, donned the apron and cooked up 110 plates of the popular stir-fried noodles, to raise funds. Each plate of the noodles, together with nutmeg juice, was sold for RM30.
Hew, who only got involved in charitable work in recent years, is grateful for the opportunity to help the less fortunate.
“It means that I’m a fortunate person. At the same time, I think the less fortunate may have less worldly possessions but they might be happier than anyone of us. I’m glad to have the chance to learn from these people,” she said.
In helping others, Hew does not expect anything in return. But hearing the Nepalis say “Dhanyavad (Thank you)” is really satisfying. And what she can never forget are their smiles – these are priceless!