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Rare medal for Nepal fundraiser

PUBLISHED: 09:13 12 June 2008 | UPDATED: 14:34 14 July 2010

Sheila and Tony Freake in Phortse in the foothills of Everest.

Sheila and Tony Freake in Phortse in the foothills of Everest.

A tireless fundraiser who is known as Papa Tony by the remote Himalayan community he supports has returned from Nepal with a prestigious award.

Tony Freake, 71, of Old Buckenham, is only the third person to be awarded the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal.

A tireless fundraiser who is known as Papa Tony by the remote Himalayan community he supports has returned from Nepal with a prestigious award.

Tony Freake, 71, of Old Buckenham, is only the third person to be awarded the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal.

It was presented to him by the legendary mountaineer's son Peter Hillary, during a special celebration on May 29 at Thyangboche Monastery, to mark the 55th anniversary of the first ascent of the summit of Mount Everest by the late Sir Edmund and Tenzing

Norgay.

The medal - for “remarkable service in conservation of culture and nature in remote mountainous regions” - was set up five years ago by the Nepalese NGO Mountain Legacy to honour the work of Sir Edmund.

Mr Freake, also a mountaineer in his younger days, said of his award: “It is an honour which I would like to share with the people who have helped me, and in particular Ang Phura Sherpa who I call 'my man in Nepal'. It is only the third medal ever made, and they present it to people who have done good deeds in remote villages anywhere in the world.

“I worked as a development superintendent in physics at King's College, London, and I took early retirement in 1988 and with four chaps went out to climb a mountain in the Himalayas to enjoy ourselves. Two of us went out early to get acclimatised and a Sherpa took me to his village. I could see they could do with some help and have been helping them ever since.”

Through his fundraising and community efforts, Mr Freake has helped the villagers of Phortse, in the foothills of Everest, secure mains electricity, running water, a school, medical centre, monastery and community centre which he opened last year. It was built with the £10,000 raised through the Phortse Community Project he set up.

And Mr Freake, who was accompanied on his latest visit by his wife, Sheila, has no intention of resting on his laurels.

“Since I went out there I realised the educational set up in the village is lacking and I have now decided, with the consent of the village, to send an 18-year-old Sherpa girl to an English speaking school to get her Grade 12. She will then be able to teach at the school. At present you have teachers who don't even speak Sherpa!

“I am hoping over the next few years to get maybe three Sherpas from the village teaching school, so you will get continuity. And they will keep the Sherpa culture alive which is the main thing,” he stressed.

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