At midday on Saturday, 25 April 2015, a massive earthquake hit Nepal and aftershocks continue. The trail of destruction is spread for about 150 miles across the Country and it will be some time before an accurate assessment of casualties can be made: some outlying villages have been virtually wiped out, communications are severely damaged and resources are limited, in spite of the flood of disaster relief beginning to arrive. The essentials – shelter, water, food and medical care – will take time to reach those most in need and the forthcoming monsoon will exacerbate matters. As it is, even HQ British Gurkhas Nepal is encountering problems with potable water supplies and is having to feed and support others.
This wonderful country, the home of our soldiers and known and loved by so many of us, has been horribly brutalised and desperately needs our help: we will not be found wanting.
Many of our supporters, be they within the Brigade, Regimental Associations or the wider community, want to know what we – the Brigade – are doing to help and how they can support us. Between the Gurkha Brigade Association (GBA) and the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) we will do our best to keep you informed of developments.
For obvious reasons, it is taking a long time to establish what the real situation is in both Nepal and in our Area Welfare Centres (AWCs), and only since Wednesday morning has coherent information begun to arrive. Three initial response teams have been deployed to Gorkha, Lamjung and Bagmati and each includes additional Welfare Officers, Doctors, Nurses, Porters and Drivers; they are providing immediate medical aid.
Furthermore, soldiers from the Brigade (QGE and RGR) are already en route to Nepal, as are three Chinook helicopters: elements of QGS might follow-on later.
The GWT opened their appeal for the “Earthquake Response Fund” on Sunday and the staff are being swamped with calls and donations, and contacts with the wider Gurkha Community are being established to channel funds. All those involved in both the GWT and in Nepal have been working flat out since this disaster happened and this has taken priority over all routine work.
You will be delighted to hear that, at a GWT meeting on 28 April, Trustees agreed the provision of £2 Million from Trust Reserves in support of either individual or community aid.
We are conscious that the aid we provide will be dictated by what the people on the ground want, but suspect that urgent tasks could include medical assistance for anyone in need and the repair of damaged water systems, particularly in outlying areas, where many were installed by our RWSP staff. We may also be asked to make our AWC network available to other charities and NGOs.
Bear in mind that many of the organisations flooding into Nepal now will move on when things calm down: we will not, nor would we wish to. What aid we supply in the long term will depend on the need and our capabilities but might range from assistance with building repairs (ie houses and schools) to enhanced health care: we simply do not know at this early stage. Suggestions that the GWT will only provide aid to our retired soldiers are inaccurate, for a major part of our work is devoted to the wider Nepalese community, such as health care.
Have faith in the system.
Be clear that GWT is our Brigade’s charity, and geared to operating in Nepal: GWS have unrivalled experience and highly skilled staff, with robust communications and a well established infrastructure.
We will be in Nepal long after the emergency aid charities and NGOs have left, and it is we who will help rebuild the country.
Our charity needs your help now, and will in the future.
You can help by making a cash donation; please do not send clothes or any other stores as we cannot get them out to Nepal. Please support the GWT by donating online to their Earthquake Response Fund or by texting FUND27 £10 to 70070*.
Brigadier (Retd) John Anderson
Chairman of the Gurkha Brigade Association