On behalf of the Taking Football to Africa and Beyond Charitable Appeal a team of 12 people travelled to Nepal on 14th December 2017 to complete a range of deliveries across the country in association with the Gurkha Welfare Scheme (Trust).

Most of the team met at Birmingham Airport and flew together on Qatar Air via Doha. Gary Rogan met the team in Doha having flown from his home in Spain. Suzi Mitchell travelled separately to the team via Istanbul and Alan Fish via Bangkok. The team met up in Kathmandu at their first hotel, the Kathmandu Grand Hotel in Thamel following a one hour transit from the airport thorough very congested dusty polluted roads with little organisation. The hotel was comfortable with a warm welcome from the owners. Following arrival Neil Hope and Tony Kinchley met with Capt (Retd) Purna Limbu, the Senior Area Welfare Officer for the Bagmati Region for the Gurkha Welfare Scheme and also with the owners of Himalayan Ecstasy, the Trek company for the Annapurna Trek.

16 Dec – The team were met at the hotel by Capt (Retd) Purna Limbu for a full day of deliveries in the Kathmandu area. The Gurkha Welfare team had earlier organized the boxes sent over the previous 18 months, to Nepal by the Appeal. A total of 14 boxes of kit had been delivered in preparation for the visit and the team carried an additional 6 kitbags of items with them.

On meeting the team we were astounded to realise that Purna and Gary Rogan had previously crossed paths, whilst not actually realising it. On 1 June 1982 Gary, as a Sgt Crewman on the famous Chinook BN, had transported Purna, as a young Rifleman in 7th Gurkha Rifles from San Carlos Bay to Goose Green in the Falklands War.

The first delivery of the day was at the Hindu Higher Secondary School, Kageswari Manahara. At the school the team were met by the Headmaster and some teachers and students. Following some brief introductions the team handed out items of kit and then joined the boys for a football match, whilst the girls played a separate game. The schools were very accommodating and provided the team with jam sandwiches and hot tea. The team also took time to explain why they were there as well as explaining that the visit corresponded with the beginning of the RAF’s 100th Anniversary.

The next delivery was at the Siphal Orphanage. The orphanage also has a small home for children with disabilities. The team handed out items including football shirts and pens and pencils and spent time chatting and playing with the children as well as visiting the bed bound children and adults with disabilities.

The final delivery in the Kathmandu area was at the Lalitpur orphanage. Again, the team were warmly welcomed and handed out kit to the children, which again included children with disabilities. Furthermore some members of the team had an impromptu football match with the children.

Following a period of downtime the team prepared to move on the next leg of the visit to Pokhara.

17 Dec –
The team split into 2 groups for the short flights to Pokhara. Team one had a seamless transfer to the airport for their flight with Yeti Airlines. The 2nd group were not as lucky and took well over an hour to get through the busy Kathmandu traffic arriving in time to run through the domestic terminal to make their flight on Simrik Airlines. The flights, however, went well allowing the team a 25 minute fabulous view of the Himalayas followed by a 90 degree turn on short finals for the hair-raising landings at Pokhara.On landing and disembarking the team got an excellent view of the incredible Mt Machapuchare, known as the ‘Fish Tail’. The Fish Tail sits behind Pokhara and is 22793ft high with many of the 25000ft plus peaks of the Annapurna Range sitting beyond it. Pokhara is very different to Kathmandu with the main tourist area sitting on the edge of the beautiful Lake Fewa. In comparison to Kathmandu it is a much cleaner town. The team arrived and settled into their hotel, the Hotel Splendid View.

18 Dec –
The team travelled through Pokhara to the Headquarters of the Gurkha Welfare Scheme. The Scheme is a UK charity working with the Ghurkhas. In the UK the Scheme is known as the Trust. The HQ is also the place that attracts up to 10000 Nepalese each year, all hoping to qualify for one of the 200 or so places in the British Gurkha Regiments. They also recruit for the Singapore Police and the Indian Gurkha Regiments.

At the HQ the team were met by Capt (Retd) Pimbahadur Gurung. Pim had already been of great assistance to the Appeal as he is the contact in Nepal and also the man that had re-sorted all of the kit ready for distribution. Pim will also ensure that items not delivered during the teams visit would be properly distributed across Nepal through the Trust. The team also met with Lt Col John White, the head of the Earthquake Response Teams. John gave the team a full brief on the ongoing efforts in relieve of villages and Gurkha families affected by the massive Earthquakes in 2015. The brief was incredibly interesting and showed how extensive the efforts had to be following the extensive damage the Earthquakes caused. The team then had coffee in the Officers’ Mess before setting off to complete the day’s deliveries.

First delivery of the day was at Shree Mahendra Secondary School at Lahachock in Machapuchare Rural Municipality in the foothills above Pokhara. The journey to school was up a very steep mountain road which was only accessible by 4 wheel drive land rovers from the Ghurkhas. The school was home to 315 children, who were currently sitting exams. The team were met by the Headmaster, Mr Govinda Prasad Adhikari, a previous pupil, who briefed on the school. The team then had a tour of the school and met many of the children before handing out items of the kit.

Next the team travelled back into the centre of Pokhara to visit the Shree Bindhyabasini Secondary School. The team were briefed by the headmaster, Basanta Raj Pandy and took tea before meeting some of the schools 500 children and handing out football kit. It was interesting to note that the plaque at the entrance stated that the school was opened in 2021! This is due to it currently being 2074 in the Nepalese calendar.