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INTRODUCING OURSELVES

Marianne van Wetter and Mark Simons, professionals in the NGO field who share a passion for hiking, want to use the immense potential of nature to empower a group of young people on the margins of society: adolescents without parents.

While gaining a PhD in Biology Marianne began guiding groups in the Himalayas. Later she used this experience to work as a logistic coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. In 2001 she started her own business as an organizational coach, inspiring people to find and choose for what they truly value in work and life.

Mark was studying Human Geography and Leisure Management when he felt an inner pull to help others. After his studies he travelled extensively, wrote and directed plays for (street) children in Bolivia and finally settled in the Netherlands to become a human rights campaign coordinator for Amnesty International. In his early twenties he started saving money to one day start working with youngsters in development countries. Mark is also an experienced mountain tour guide and an enthusiastic children’s activity leader.

The idea to start Mountain Child Care arose in 2008 after they walked a 2,300 kilometre honeymoon pilgrimage from Utrecht to Santiago de Compostela, accompanied by their daughter Mare, who was then 9 months old. They imagined that while walking one would get to know one’s self better. Questions would dissolve, awareness would sharpen and willpower and discipline would grow. The journey was far from easy but, as the blisters and pain began to fade, they noticed that, not only were they growing more clear and present, but that they had started to inspire others. On www.mmmtrouwen.blogspot.com they blogged (in Dutch) about their experiences. In 2009 they visited the Way of Saint James again, covering about 1000 kilometres with Mare, now almost three, and her new-born sister Kieke, just 6 weeks old when they began.

Back in The Netherlands, they started working on a plan. Their experience with their own children pointed them towards walking with youngsters, inspiring them to listen to their souls’ voices when making the crucial choices of work and life. They began in Nepal. Marianne had never forgotten the joy in the eyes of the children of a shelter home, run by a Nepalese friend, as they returned from their annual outing. A cable car between Kathmandu and Pokhara had pulled them up a mountain to where the views were stunning. Mark and Marianne wanted to bring more Nepalese inner-city orphans to the Himalayas. To their Himalayas.

Mark and Marianne believe that everyone has a special talent or talents. Supporting Nepalese youngsters to identify and develop their particular talents helps them create a better future for themselves.

From these root ideas, Mark and Marianne developed Mountain Child Care (MCC), an innovative NGO from the Netherlands, funded by Dutch and Nepalese enterprises and (public and private) donors. It offers tailored 5-day Quest Treks, supported by coaching and business internships, for adolescent orphans from the inner-city areas of Kathmandu and Pokhara. The goal is to help these youngsters make their talents work and so reduce the extreme poverty among Nepalese adult orphans.