Donating to a cause you believe in is easy enough. However, taking it that one step further and actually going out to fight for a cause you believe in brings a whole new meaning to being charitable.

UAE-based mum-of-three Harsha Makhija has been raising funds toward providing education in Ladakh, India since 2010. However, not content on just raining money, Harsha has decided to take it one step further.

Her new venture sees her setting out to Zanskar, India, on January 29 until February 12 to walk 80km over a frozen river, taking nine days, in minus 20 degrees celsius at 11,400-feet. The treacherous path that Harsha will be walking is the exact path that all the local school children have to trek along each year, just to get an education.

While Harsha has sought to attempt this feat three times before, this time she tells us she is determined to complete her mission, which will see her raise funds towards the construction of the Lille Fro House, a hostel facility in Zanskar for disadvantaged and marginalised children. Emirates Woman had a chat with Harsha before her brave mission…


So what can you tell us about this incredible mission?

I’m planning on walking over a frozen river for nine days, to raise awareness for a cause close to my heart. This river, Zanskar in Ladakh, India freezes in the winter months, where temperatures drop down to below minus 20 degrees celsius. However, it is the only path that gives access to the Zanskar valley.

What drew you to Zanskar?

Zanskar is one of the world’s most uninhabited regions. The villages in this particular valley are cut off from the rest of the world for majority of the year. Every year, parents walk this path with their little ones to see them off to school. This is literally their only path to an education.

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What do you hope to achieve from this walk?

We plan to raise enough [funds] to build a residential school in the Zanskar valley, so the kids can stay in the valley and not risk their lives walking to school.

The Toughest Walk To School

What was it that made you want to raise money for this cause?

In August 2010 I committed to the education of 20 children who were victims to flash floods in the region. My friends and family soon helped and sponsored the education and living expenses of a child or two each. I now ensure that the children receive the quality and care the sponsors pay for.

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Why did you choose to work with Lille Fro Foundation?

It was through chance meeting with Tamara Cannon, founder of Lille Fro Foundation, an Australia- and India-based charity who support the world’s lowest income groups. Lille Fro has a residential school plan and also a plan of action for the Zanskar valley. I studied it, met with Tamara and decided that the only thing left to be done was to raise my target amount of Dhs1.4 million to go towards building the Lille Fro House, so the kids will never need to undertake the trek again. It seemed like the right time to make a noise.

Toughest Walk To School 2

Why raise funds for the Lille Fro foundation?

I’m in awe of Tamara Cannon’s level of commitment. I’m highly inspired by her and all her achievements in Ladakh [providing fresh water, supplies, building hostels and schools]. Tamara has the kids’ best interest at heart.

How have you been preparing for this trip?

I’ve been doing functional training with a personal trainer, and walking 10km a day with my trekking shoes. I don’t really know how to prepare for the weather.

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What’s your motivation?

Knowing no child will ever have to do this again if I do it now.

All donations will go towards the construction of the Lille Fro House, which is the hostel facility in Zanskar.

Head over to Harsha’s fundraiser page here to send some money or a word of encouragement her way.