Kilted docs saddle up for fundraising ride

TWO kilted Banchory doctors are hoping all their training has paid off as they embark on a fundraising cycle ride from Edinburgh to Paris on Saturday (September 6).

Patriotic GPs Mike Steven and Sandy Rough - from Banchory Group Practice in Bellfield - are raising cash for the Helambu Project, which aims to help build a school and boarding hostel for children in an area of Nepal visited by Dr Steven last year.

Their journey, which will involve more than 300 miles of cycling, will start at Edinburgh Castle and culminate at the Eiffel Tower, Paris. The pair will average between 60 and 70 miles per day on the six-day ride, which will see them visiting Ypres, Arras, the Somme and Compiegne en-route to the French capital.

Their planned trip has already raised more than 3,000 towards the project through donations.

"The training is going ok," said Dr Steven, who has been cycling to house calls as part of his training. "We will be staying in youth hostels and B&Bs along the way and we are going to take some detours en-route and see some of the country, particularly around the Somme.

"The growth of the project has been astonishing really and has way, way exceeded my expectations. This is all down to the kindness of people and patients within the village and a number of off-shoots that have sprung up."

As reported previously in the Piper, Dr Steven, 37, trekked through the remote Sindhuplachok district of Helambu, Nepal, as team doctor, with TV presenter and adventurer Ben Fogle, during the filming of BBC2's Extreme Dreams in summer 2007.

During his time there, Dr Steven was moved by the harsh living standards of the locals, yet at the same time humbled and overwhelmed by their kindness and hospitality.

The total raised to date is 12,000, but the father-of-four hopes to raise that to around 20,000.

"Around 8,500 will allow the school to be built starting October and finishing summer 2009," said the keen hillwalker and cyclist. "Forty-five children are being sponsored to go to boarding school in Kathmandu. The annual fee for full-board, including lodging and meals, is approximately 311, although their parents pay some of it.

"Extra funding will also furnish the school, buy solar panels and develop health clinics."

He said villagers also had a wish list - including solar panels, school books, art supplies, medical supplies, bed linen and towels for students, dishes for cafeteria, gardening tools, sports equipment, basic school supplies, old laptops, software for typing exercises and media for classrooms.

"With the solar panels in place, it would be great if, in time, we could fund the purchase of a few computers with internet access via satellite, as this would allow the school to have internet access, which would be pretty amazing," he said. "Money will also be kept in reserve to fund the teachers' salary over the next five years at 600 per year.

"Other fundraising is in place for the longer-term, including the development of industry within the village."

For more information on the project, visit: www.helambuproject.org

To donate, send a cheque, made payable to 'Helambu Project' to the Bank of Scotland, 70 High Street, Banchory, AB31 5SS. Cash can also be handed in directly to Banchory Group Practice, Bellfield, Banchory, AB31 5XS, marked FAO Dr Mike Steven.

* Banchory surgery practice nurse, Joey Lovegrove, who was due to run the Glasgow Half Marathon this month to raise money from the project, has had to pull out due to injury.