After the 2015 Nepal earthquake, 22-year-old Jackson knew he could help. Two years and $120,000 later, he’s now inspiring others to change lives.
Jackson Bursill (left) is a busy guy. When he’s not at university or his day job, he’s a member of the Australian Cross Country ski team, the Founder of fundraising event Neverest, and a Youth Ambassador for the Australian Himalayan Foundation (AHF).
His passion for the AHF — and his love for the outdoors — made him the perfect candidate as a Kathmandu Trek Leader. This year, Jackson set off with five Summit Club members on a life-changing trek through the Himalayas.
Jackson shares what he loves about Nepal and why he's passionate about travel with purpose.
How did you first get to know Nepal and what were your first impressions traveling there?
I read a few National Geographic magazines as a kid — or rather just flicked through all the stunning photographs — and was taken aback by the scale and height of the Himalayan Mountains. While training and racing as a cross country skier, I became obsessed with mountains and challenging my endurance under the effects of high altitude. I travelled to Nepal in late 2015 following the earthquakes earlier that year.
While we went into Nepal thinking about the mountains, we came out with an enormous respect and appreciation for the local Sherpa and their culture. There is an infectious strength of spirit amongst the mountain communities, they're incredibly humble and hospitable. I remember feeling overwhelmed in the first few days by these aspects of their culture.
What inspired you to become more involved with the Australian Himalayan Foundation (AHF)?
Like so many Australians, my housemates and I in Canberra were shocked at the scenes from the Nepalese Earthquake. Suddenly people who had so little were left with nothing. I decided to organise a community event in Canberra, to do an ‘Everest’ to raise money for the AHF.
In May 2015, I set off for what would be a 25 hour endurance event, flanked by one other ‘solo-er’ and over 90 others, doing laps in teams to reach the height of ‘Everest’ (some 9000m of climbing) in one go. After setting an initial target of $5000, which we met in one week, we set the bar high at $40,000.
Support for the event grew into what is now ‘Neverest’. We launched in Melbourne in 2016 and Sydney in 2017. From an event that was born from a Canberra lounge room, funded by whatever money a group of university students could scrape together, has now raised over $120,000 — the Neverest event is a testament to both human endurance and community spirit across Australia.
What did you like about trekking with a group of other Summit Club members who had also supported the AHF through fundraising?
It was incredible trekking with a group of people who, despite our different ages and backgrounds, shared a common care for the Nepalese and their welfare.
As a group, we thoroughly enjoyed hiking in each other’s company. While we were hiking, we found ourselves engaged in hours of conversation on a diverse range of topics. This is something that really only exists on a Summit Club Trek, which brings people who share a common interest together to share a common experience.
Why do you think it’s important for travellers to support education improvements in Nepal?
The power of education in the hands of those who value it most is widely recognised. Joining a Summit Club Trek is a great way to contribute to the programs which rebuild schools and improve access to (and the quality of) the education that Nepalese students receive.
On top of that, trekkers get to see first-hand the profound effect these programs are having on the welfare of these children during visits to the schools.
Would you recommend a fundraising trek to other travellers? Or would you say that responsible travel is more rewarding than a simple holiday?
I definitely think that where possible, including a charitable or local community initiative to your travel adds that extra dimension to your journey. It makes travel more memorable and more rewarding. It also often leads to meeting more interesting people and can be the start of further adventures and journeys abroad.
Kathmandu works closely with the Australian Himalayan Foundation to help deliver life-changing programs. Fundraise for the AHF and see the difference you could make as you trek through Nepal.