Co-Active Global Newletter
FINDING LEADERSHIP PURPOSE AMIDST DISASTER IN NEPAL
Adrian Hayes was on a climbing expedition in Nepal in April 2015 when two deadly earthquakes struck a country poorly equipped to handle this disaster. As a former British Army Gurkha officer and Special Forces soldier, Adrian has a strong bond with Nepal, and is currently organizing relief efforts.
Hayes is not a stranger to death. During his successful ascent of Mount Everest in May 2006, eleven people died. On his first attempt of K2, the notorious second highest mountain in the world, two of his teammates were killed in an avalanche. Yet, it was a bizarre act of fate that Adrian was back in Nepal for another expedition this April when the first of two deadly earthquakes struck one of the poorest nations in the world. To date, as of June 1, 2015, over 8,698 people have been reported dead and upwards of 22,487 injured.
Adrian says it was in the chaos of the earthquake’s aftermath that the power of Co-Active leadership principles were brought into sharp focus.
The climbing teams at Advanced Base Camp (5,700m/18,700ft) of Makalu (the world’s 5th highest mountain) had met several times following the earthquake on April 25th, but when it came to deciding definitively what to do Adrian was determined to chair the meeting.
“It’s agreed in situations like this that no one person can order separate teams to a certain action,” he says. “Yet, I knew from my leadership training the importance of following your instincts with full permission. Naming and articulating the wide range of factors facing us was going to be essential in helping us reach a decision everyone could align with. I knew we couldn’t step over anything.”
“Our Sherpas wanted to return down to the valleys to help their families. Then there were the ethics and safety of continuing to climb with Sherpas who didn’t want to be there. Not to mention the morality of continuing a climb when the whole country was a disaster zone, and indeed, the possible risks from further quakes. The evidence before us was overwhelming. We acted as a single team and decided to abort the expedition.”
As Adrian began his descent from advanced base-camp and came face to face with the effects of the 7.8 magnitude destruction, he claims a new ‘leadership quest’ rooted in a deeper sense of life purpose became clear.
“It struck me right between the eyes,” he says. “Here I was: a Nepalese speaker, supremely fit and acclimatized to 6000m, with an excellent satellite communications system, self-sufficient in expedition equipment and provisions, with advanced medical training and a large public following. The conclusions of this were overwhelming that my use in Nepal was far better served elsewhere.”
Hayes adds: “I made a commitment that over the next weeks, and months if necessary, to put my experience and skills in service of the Nepalese people. This is a very personal quest for a country and people that I am deeply connected to.”
Traveling extremely light – just a backpack, a tent, sleeping bag, one change of clothes, comms gear, a medical kit and food – in the following days Adrian began trekking to the remote and high altitude settlements of Central and Eastern Nepal. Hayes was able to bring the things we take for granted, such as technology and medicine, to areas which were almost certainly devoid of any attention — often without road access and communications — because relief agencies were focusing mostly on the more severely hit areas closer to Kathmandu.
Hayes made a difference wherever he could: gathering important information about the damage and needs of every village for several NGO’s; treating minor injuries and illness; calling rescue for more serious conditions; and providing the small comfort to villagers of contacting missing loved ones in other regions via his satellite phone. He even came across a young Israeli couple, well off the beaten track, lost and with only a couple of days food left who were finally able to phone home to let their families know they were safe.
By May 11th, having endured food poisoning and the danger of continual landslides along the way, Hayes was ready to embark on phase two of his quest to reach the remote settlements between Langtang and Gorkha, towards the quake epicenter, many of which hadn’t yet been visited.
Lightning Strikes Twice
However, the next day – May 12th – a second earthquake, this time at 7.3 magnitude, hit Nepal, centered near Sindupalchok and Dolakha on the Everest Base Camp route.
“The whole ground shook violently for a minute, people rushing out into the open while debris rained down from buildings, the ground continuing to sway for the next two minutes, many ladies crying,” recalls Hayes.
“I remember thinking, let’s hope for no serious damage or casualties. This country has faced enough tragedy already and simply cannot cope as it is...” he adds.
However, the impact of the second quake only compounded the damage of the first. For example, 90% of the houses in the Makalu region, close to the epicenter of the second quake and where Adrian had previously been, were badly damaged or destroyed.
“It’s a human tragedy that is hard to fully encapsulate — such is the sheer scale of the destruction. It really does make one think how much more this country can suffer,” says Hayes.
But he resolved himself to continue on and reach the communities close to the epicenter of the second quake. For days, he trekked many kilometers, sometimes through thick forest, above the snowline, and once over a 4,500 meter pass, continuing to provide essential support while also broadcasting appeals for funds to the wider world via social media.
Co-Active Principles in Action
While Hayes is no stranger to extreme physical exertion in the harshest of environments over extended periods of time, he says the sheer number of people he treated and personal disasters he witnessed was exhausting. The risk of experiencing disaster fatigue was real.
However, he claims that what has kept him going is the belief in synchronicity: that this was meant to happen and that he is living his purpose.
“The question ‘what is my purpose?’ which I first explored in CTI’s courses continues to be played out like a movie in front of my eyes. It is ironic that after I trained as a paramedic in the British Special Forces, such was my passion for the human body and helping people, that had I not been selected for Sandhurst Military Academy, I would have trained to become a doctor.
Thirty years later, here I am doing effectively just that. The passion to fulfill one’s deeper calling goes a long way to overcoming fatigue.”
Hayes has requested that anyone who wishes to help should donate to an appeal he has set up to help rebuild Seduwa School complex in Seduwa – a Sherpa village in the Makalu region of Nepal, one of the most heavily damaged villages he encountered following the first earthquake.
Help cupport the Seduwa School Complex by clicking here
Mission Himalaya: facebook.com/MissionHimalaya