When Fourth Former Tarannum (Sr) and her family decided to fund raise for Galaxy Gurukul, a new school for underprivileged children in Kolkata, India, they did not settle for an easy challenge. They opted to complete a fourteen-day trek to the Mount Everest Base Camp, covering 135 kms at 18,000 feet above sea level.

The challenge began with months of preparation with a sports coach that included hiking, and climbing mountains in Wales for Tarannum, her ten-year-old brother at Laxton Junior School, and her parents.

Despite their intense preparations, nothing could have prepared them for the actual physical strain of hiking over rough terrain at that altitude, and enduring extreme cold. The higher they went, the lower their oxygen levels dropped, as well as their appetites, making it difficult to balance the need to maintain calories to sustain their energy.

Along the way, they spent the nights in local tea houses with outdoor toilets, unheated bedrooms and no running water for washing, in temperatures reaching minus fifteen degrees Celsius. Their evening’s accommodation does not sound like much to look forward to, but reaching the end of each day’s trek reinforced Tarannum with a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to keep going.

The family faced a crisis at Lobuche, just six kilometres from the Base Camp when Tarannum’s mother’s oxygen levels dropped critically, and it was decided to medically evacuate her by helicopter to Kathmandu. Knowing she would be well taken care off, the rest of the family carried on to complete the trek.

When they finally arrived at the Base Camp, dazed with exhaustion and the effects of the altitude, the fact of having reached the finish was unbelievable for Tarannum. They unfurled their banner in celebration of Galaxy Gurukul, and then she understood the magnitude of her achievement.

Back at home in the UK, it took two weeks to recover from the expedition before Tarannum could take stock of her experience and what had been its purpose. Her father was born and raised by his widowed mother in Kolkata, and is committed to providing opportunities for children in Kolkata to succeed. He set up the non-profit Galaxy Foundation and has established the school to offer free education, uniforms, books, nutrition, health check-ups and counselling to 80 underprivileged students from Reception to Year 6. The aim is to eventually accommodate 600 students and increase their education to the GCSE level. Altogether, the family raised £45,000 for Galaxy Gurukul.

After the exhilaration of being amidst the splendour of mountain scenery, Tarannum says she now has an enthusiasm for hiking, and expects to climb more heights in the future.

Watch a summary of their trekking journey here.

As told by Tarannum.