Building on Ben’s memory to benefit orphans

Undated family handout of Ben Cheek, 28, from Manchester. Fears grew today for the British climber missing in Pakistan.
Undated family handout of Ben Cheek, 28, from Manchester. Fears grew today for the British climber missing in Pakistan.

The family of a Berwickshire climber who lost his life in Pakistan seven years ago have helped build homes for the country’s orphaned children in his memory.

Ben Cheek failed to return from a solo attempt to climb Shimshal Whitehorn (6,303m) in the Karakoram mountains of northern Pakistan in July 2008. He is believed to have died in an avalanche.

The 28-year-old biologist, who worked in Manchester, but grew up in the Ettrick Valley and attended Selkirk High School, was the son of Mick and Heather Cheek, who now live in Gordon.

The couple explained on their son’s fundraising Just Giving webpage: “In honour of Ben, or Benjie to his family, we are raising money to help build and support a children’s village in the mountains of northern Pakistan for orphans of the 2005 earthquake. This village will be built in Rawalakot. We know Benjie would be so proud to be helping the children there.

“Ben first visited Pakistan in the summer of 2006 and was truly touched by the warmth and kindness of the local mountain people who welcomed him into their homes. As a family we experienced the same warmth and compassion from the local people who were involved in the search for Ben. We are delighted that the children’s home is finally nearing completion and will be welcoming the first occupants in April 2015. A plaque in Benjie’s memory will be installed before the inauguration in June.”

The development is being built by SOS Children’s Village, a charity providing homes, and new families, for youngsters orphaned by AIDS, war, poverty or natural disasters around the world.

The charity’s Julie Lethaby told us: “Initially, the youth home will be used for children up to the age of 10, but as soon as the main children’s village is completed, the youth home will be used exclusively for boys over the age of 14 years. The inauguration ceremony is expected to take place in June. The plaque in Ben’s memory will be put in place before the inauguration. The grand total raised to date is £8,495.14.”