She wanted a holiday off the beaten track, and chose Nepal on her way to India. The poverty and disadvantage touched her, but little did she know the country would call her back again five years later to help those in need.“I could smell ginger cooking,” she recalls.
“My guide brought me to this temple where there were people sitting around this open pot cooking their lunch. They spoke to him in Nepalese, asking if we wanted to stay for lunch. They were so kind. They had nothing but they wanted me to stay for a meal."I turned to the guide and asked him to tell them that we were on a tour and had to keep going, but I was honoured.”
It was her first real experience of the kindness of the Nepalese people, and it stayed with her.After years working in various management roles for top-tier firms and being appointed the director of education for the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA), having her own children and family - nothing in Mary Hockaday’s life had affected her in quite the same way.
On her return to Brisbane she joined a small organisation called the Nepal Australia Friendship Association (NAFA).“I was very touched by my travels to Nepal,” she says.
“When I joined NAFA I had made up my mind that my commitment needed to be about education or helping women. I decided then that this was going to be what I was going to be able to give back. I was going to fund a project and, just like that, the perfect project funding classrooms presented itself.”The project was renovating classrooms in Shree Lali Gurans Primary School in the Tawal Besi Ri district, Dhading.
The three-room school had dark walls, with a dirt and rock floor, housing 35 students from nursery to class 3.With Hockaday’s kind donation, the dark rooms were transformed. Fresh white paint was applied to the rendered walls, the skylights were brightened allowing more light into the rooms and the dirt and rock were covered by a cement floor.
NAFA then invited Hockaday to accompany them on a trip to Nepal to see the completed project.“It was the most rewarding experience,” says Hockaday.
“I had brought little koala toys and my dentist gave me a whole load of toothpaste to take over for all the children. We were camping for a week with no hot water and no electricity - we had to trek everywhere. It was definitely an eye-opening experience and fulfilled a lot of dreams that I had.“On my last day the community invited us to a huge picnic. I asked if I could help with the cooking and of all things they gave me to do was to chop ginger.
"I couldn’t believe it. After smelling the ginger on my first trip to Nepal, I felt like the whole reason for me being there had come full circle," she says.“After having my children, this has to be the most rewarding and fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. It’s fulfilled my philanthropic dream.”
Hockaday says she plans to continue the work she has started in primary schools and wants to fundraise to continue sponsoring the children with dental hygiene.A fundraising dinner will be held on May 10.
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