MORAY film-maker Anna McPherson has just returned from a three-week adventure which saw her document the lives of people in Nepal.
Anna, from Hopeman, was filming a documentary promo on behalf of the Nepal Trust to show the charity’s work with impoverished communities in the country.
A chance meeting with Elgin Rotarian Tony Sharpe, from Roseisle, last summer, who is a member of the trust, sowed the seed for her visit.
With £1,000 in business sponsorship from Benromach Distillery and Converged IT in Aberdeen, Anna supplemented the cost of her three-week visit through her own fund-raising efforts.
Her film will help raise awareness of the charity’s projects in remote Humla, in the North-west Himalayas, where they are building micro hydro electric projects which will provide electricity for the first time to many homes and health posts.
"As a documentary-maker, I found I was instantly whipping out my little handy-cam in order to capture the everyday essence of life here: from commuting, to roadside shacks, food stalls covered with flies and pigs heads, children laughing in the streets and rickshaws," she said.
Anna said it was instantly obvious that Nepal suffers from a lack of two things: a lack of water and therefore poor sanitation – and the second, electricity, with scheduled power-cuts throughout the working day.
A whistle-wind tour of many temples saw her visit Swayambhunath (also known as the Monkey Temple), Boudhanath, Pashupatinath and she just escaped a live sacrificial offering at the bloodsoaked temple of Dakshinkali, where people offer up animals as sacrifices.
With people dressed in traditional tribe-like dress, women with all sorts of piercings, countless happy children playing surrounded with the huge, wonderous mountain scapes that are the Himalayan mountains, covered in snow.
‘Himal’ actually means permanently snow-covered mountain ranges. "There is a lot of poverty, and this is a completely developing civilisation," she said.
There are no motor roads in this region, only trekking trails, so walking on foot is the only mode of transport.
"There is a great farming tradition and women and children are always walking about with bundles of hay on their backs. You feel as if you have gone back in time.
"It is a very dramatic landscape and it really was a gift to wake up with every morning with that in your ‘back garden’," added Anna.
Mike Love, chairman of the trust, was Anna’s guide, and he opened a new health post in Torpa during the trek.
Without the services of the Nepal Trust, the locals would have to trek for days to Simikot for treatments, even pregnant women. A visit to the doctor or dentist, things that people in the west take for granted, are luxuries in Humla.
Mr Love and the group’s translator, guide and operations director, Jigme Lama (also a local), held a community consultation in Bargaun to assess if the Lamas there were willing to work in partnership to help build a new health post.
"We were invited to a leaving ceremony on a rooftop in Torpa, life takes place on the rooftop here. We were blessed many times, as we received a smearing of sacred yak butter on our heads and given white satin scarves to bring us luck on our trek," said Anna.
She said she quickly learned that religion takes on many guises in Nepal and in such a bleak environment in Humla, it possibly brings people a sense of hope and faith when life gets hard.
The group meets lots of children along the trek, who all ask for pens, paper and chocolate.
"I was advised to fill my pockets with balloons and quickly became the Pied Piper during our trek. To see the delight on the children’s faces on receiving a balloon was a great feeling and one you could get addicted to, but you need to be careful not to instill a culture of begging in the children."
Anna and the group were able to watch the royal wedding during their trip as a Nepal Trust social worker, Sitar, living in Muchu, the northern most location on the journey, had a TV and satellite connection for a certain number of hours in the day.
"We find ourselves watching the royal wedding and toasting good health to the new couple with a wee dram of sponsored Benromach whisky."
Anna admitted she was both humbled and moved by the people of Nepal.
She added: "My eyes have been spoiled with many new landscapes and new history, but the one memory that will resonate with me is the children of Humla.
"They have nothing: no toys, they work all day in the fields, their clothes are literally torn and shredding; but yet they are happy and full of laughter."
You can find out more about the work of the Nepal Trust at nepaltrust.org