WARRNAMBOOL taxi driver Shane Gellert is combining his love of hiking with a worthy cause.
Mr Gellert is leaving for Nepal at the end of the month to hike in the foothills of the Himalayas in aid of The Leprosy Mission (TLM) Australia.
He is embarking on a 90-kilometre, eight-day trek through the Annapurna Poon Hill region.
While leprosy is a curable disease, Mr Gellert said it was difficult for sufferers to get rid of the stigma surrounding it.
He was inspired by friends involved with TLM to undertake the trek with 17 others from around Australia.
“It will be a very new experience,” he said.
“I haven’t been exposed to The Leprosy Mission before, but I thought it was a good thing to do.”
During the trek Mr Gellert will visit hospitals and see first hand the work TLM does. He said they would be also assisting local people in rural communities.
Leprosy is a significant problem in Nepal with the number of cases high above the World Health Organisation’s elimination target.
TLM has been working with the Nepalese government since 1957.
Mr Gellert has been preparing for the trek by going to the gym and walking, although he isn’t overly concerned.
“I have a reasonable level of fitness and I’ve been assured it’s not too strenuous,” he said.
Porters will carry the group’s luggage throughout the Kathmandu Valley.
He is raising money for the trek and donations can be made at www.leprosymission.org.au
All money will go to support rehabilitation programs provided by TLM for people affected by leprosy in rural communities.