The Gurkha Welfare Trust (registered charity number: 1103669) is one of the oldest charities in Nepal, originally established in 1969 to relieve poverty and distress amongst ex-Gurkha soldiers and their dependants in Nepal.
Since then they have expanded their mission to include Gurkha communities too, understanding that the wider community needs to be stable as well as the individual.
This work includes a medical programme, delivering community aid to rural villages in Nepal, installing clean water and sanitation systems, building and refurbishing schools and running mobile medical camps. It really is a huge task and incredible work to be doing in one of the poorest, most remote countries in the world, where communities can live 5 days walk from any reachable town.
Then the earthquake happened.
Thousands were killed and millions of people across Nepal were left homeless, including around 1,200 Gurkha veterans and widows.
The Gurkha Welfare Trust acted quickly, and was able to reach some of the most remote areas before other aid. This is a huge benefit of being such a longstanding, established charity in the country with many connections within communities. For the long term rehabilitation effort it sparked a need to expand the community-focussed part of the Trust.
There are now 50 staff on the ground in Nepal, solely assigned as an earthquake response team. They are all Nepalese, as are all staff in Nepal; the trust prefers to employ local people wherever possible.
Of these 50 staff over half are project engineers, who are sent to assess sites that have been badly damaged by the earthquakes. They decide what can be done, how necessary the building requests are and how the trust can help best. Any planning and building applications then have to be sent to the government for approval, endorsed by the research carried out by the engineers. After approval has been given building is allowed to start. Due to the monsoon rains, most big builds will start in the autumn after the rain has stopped, with a view to be completed in the spring. On a big build one of the structural engineers will be on site every day to ensure smooth and efficient development. For smaller projects they will visit on a regular basis.
This is a slow process, especially when there are people in need, but it is necessary to ensure that all buildings are legal and that the funds are spent in the most effective way. All building work is carried out by local people, teams from outside are not brought in, in an effort to keep revenue in the local area. Likewise all building materials are sourced as locally as possible.
I can’t tell you how impressed I am with everything I’ve learnt about the Trust so far, I am so excited to be partnering with them.
Here are some more mind blowing facts to leave you with:
It is estimated that 15% of Nepal’s GDP comes through the Gurkhas (although this cannot be officially verified).
Over 50% of Nepal’s GDP comes from tourism (again this is an estimation), which is why the earthquakes and consequential lack of visitors is such a blow for the country.
The Gurkha Welfare Trust aims to build 12 new schools each year until 2020. It will provide repairs and extensions to hundreds more. The school I am supporting is one of the big projects of 2016/2017.
The M.O.D. provided £0.5 million to help with the earthquake response and continues to provide an annual grant-in-aid to support the Trust’s admin costs for welfare development.
D.F.I.D. (The Department for International Development) funds the majority of the Trust’s water projects. The Trust plans to develop 120 projects a year until 2020.
Please have a look at The Gurkha Welfare Trust website. There is a wealth of information on there… https://www.gwt.org.uk