The History of GDS

Founder Joy Leighton

In 1986 at the age of 60, Charity founder Joy Leighton of Stock, Essex, UK, traveled to Nepal for the first time for a trekking holiday in the Gorkha region. On route Joy met Purusotam Aryal who was  headmaster of a rural school Bindyabasini School in Naraswar. In 1988, following correspondence with Purusotam (by letter!) Joy returned to Gorkha, taking funds she had raised in the UK with the desire to make health and education more accessible to the people of Gorkha and the surrounding villages and also with the aim to work with local Nepali N.G.O.s (non-governmental organisations) in the region This was the start of an independent charity based on development of education in the region. 

GDS Registed Charity

In 1988  Gorkha District Health and Education Development Scheme (GDHEDS) now known as Gorkha Development Scheme (GDS), was registered as a charity with the UK Charity Commission (Registered Charity No 1069611) with the aim to provide volunteers and funds to promote education, health, social welfare, environmental and constructional projects in the Gorkha region of western Nepal.


Simultaneously, a Sister charity GDHEDS was formed and registered in Nepal and soon Gorkha Women’s Association (GWA) was also registered as a nepali charity. The local GDHEDS committee consisted of founding members still involved Perusotum Aryal Headmaster, and Badri Maskey Medical liaison, as well as Mohan Shrestha Campus Chief, school Headmaster, Doctor from Gorkha Hospital, local Government official, 

The GDHEDS committee continue to be our contact with the community as they present applications for funding and manage all projects in Gorkha. We continue to work together thankfully now with  improved communication via email and social media. 

Non Governmental Organisations ( NGO’s) – Community Groups 

During the 30 years that the charity has been working in Gorkha, a range of community based projects have been undertaken which has included working in partnership with local groups and NGOs (non – governmental organisations).  These  local groups were aware of the needs of the community and so linking with them has provided support for the projects most needed.Such groups have included the well known international groups with bases in Gorkha The Rotary Club and The Lions Club as well as international charity Child First.

The Youth Movement for Environment (TYME) of Gorkha was formed to encourage the young people of the town to be involved in community projects. An early project included the distribution of waste bins in the town to enhance street cleanliness in the community. GDS became involved with TYME through the funding of village outreach clinics (see below).

Having run for 10 years, very successfully, the outreach clinics were finally stopped when government-run clinics began at the hospital, and villagers no longer needed the YM-run clinics and Youth Movement is now inactive.

Gorkha Women’s Association (GWA) 


Earlier Projects

The charity has worked on many projects over the years with details of some of the projects funded over the last 30 years:


  • Medical Supplies – In 1998, a qualified British nurse Chris Marion, raised over £10,000 and collected medical supplies to take to Gorkha. She traveled to Gorkha to work in association with GDS , in outreach clinics and the local hospital.
  • Clinics – The Gorkha Youth Movement members started baby clinics in villages surrounding Gorkha focusing on the health of infants and their mothers. . Members planned all clinics and accompanied the paramedic, who administered the government vaccination programme, and undertook general health assessments. GDS funded these clinics at £300 per year to support  clinics in 5 regions which were held monthly supporting up to 100 families. The costs covered vaccination and medicine costs, nurse time, and a porter to carry the equipment. The young volunteers organised the clinic and kept records.This lasted for 10 years, until government-run clinics at the Gorkha hospital were started and villagers began to attend these instead. TYME former member Yong Kumar Shretha remains a member of GDHEDS.
  • Ambulance – Gorkha Lions club were supported as they tried to gain funds to repair a much needed ambulance.  Funds were raised in the UK and the vehicle was repaired
  • Electives – Medical electives programmes have been running successfully via GDHEDS for nearly 30 years. Many medical students have had the opportunity to spend time in the small Gorkha District hospital with a well established network of homestay accommodation and support for the well as  opportunity to get involved in other GDS projects.
  • Equipment – Funding for hospital supplies and equipment have continued in some way since the beginning of  the charity.
  • Women’s Health – Links with the hospital and women’s group GWA, have enabled more recent programmes on Women’s health to be developed.
  • Children’s Hygiene in Schools programme


  • School Sponsorship – In the early 1990’s, two school sponsorship programmes ran in both Gorkha town and a rural school Bindyabasini, Naraswar, Sponsorship was provided for poor children to attend school and also for repairing buildings and constructing basic toilets. Funding was given by the Chelmer Bridge Rotary Club and the Lions Club in Chelmsford.  GDS worked with other charities including Child First and a French charity from Alsace to administer these projects.
  • A small hillside school was started for lower cast children who had never had access to schooling.  The school was initiated by Mohan Shrestha of Gorkha and was run by his daughter Kabita with the school running from 7-9am each day so not disturbing their ability to work at home.  30 children were sponsored each year with many sponsored by Dorset Women s  Institute.  In 1996 this school was handed over to a former volunteer  and has since become a Government run school with some sponsorship from UK continuing.
  • The Annapurna school closed during the political uprising and the children were transferred to the Shree Mahendra Jyoti School in 2003 where the sponsorship programme continues today.
  • The current School Sponsorship Programme is managed by Linda Blunt and Laxman Archarya and over 60 children are supported in 5 different schools. Those seen to be the brightest and most determined under-privileged children receive uniform, shoes, school equipment and exam fees where applicable to ensure they can complete school to SLC or even A level equivalent.
  •  Books and equipment – Over the years, much equipment including books, musical instruments and other classroom essentials have been sent to various schools in the region, sponsored by GDS.


  • Town bus park – a volunteer provided expertise to survey the town bus park and help facilitate the provision of a new bus park away from the congested centre of town.