In 1986 Charity founder Joy Leighton traveled to Nepal for a trekking holiday in the Gorkha region, and met Purusotam Aryal, the then headmaster of Bindyabasini School in Naraswar. In 1988, following correspondence with Purusotam (by letter!) Joy returned to Gorkha, taking funds she had raised in the UK. This was the start of an independent charity based on development of education in the region.
In 1998 the organisation was registered as a charity titled Gorkha District Health and Education Development Scheme (GDHEDS) now known as Gorkha Development Scheme (GDS) with the UK Charity Commission 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.
The charity has worked on many projects over the years, working in partnership with local Gorkha NGOs (non-governmental organisations) including The Rotary Club, The Lions Club, The Youth Movement, Child First and the local hospital. Here are details of some of our most successful projects in the last 20 years:
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.
- Medical electives programmes have been running successfully via GDHEDS for over 15 years. Students have the opportunity to spend time in the hospital as well as get involved in volunteering activities in the area.
- The Gorkha Youth Movement started clinics in villages surrounding Gorkha, with funding from GDHEDS of £300 per year. Clinics in 5 regions were held monthly supporting up to 100 families. This lasted for 10 years, until government-run clinics at the Gorkha hospital were started and villagers began to attend these instead.
- In the early 1990’s, two school sponsorship programmes ran in Gorkha and a rural school. At Bindyabasini in Naraswar, sponsorship was provided for poor children to attend school, and 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 school running from 7-9am each day so not disturbing the working day. 30 children were sponsored each year 24 of which were sponsored by Dorset Women s Institute. In 1996 this school was handed over to a former volunteer Nell White who has since built a new school named Shree Krishna Primary School where children are still sponsored from UK.
- The Annapurna school closed during political uprising and the children were finally transferred to the Shree Mahendra School Jyoti in 2003 where the sponsorship programme continues today.
- The current School Sponsorship Programme is managed by Linda Blunt and the Headmaster Laxman Acharya, and sponsors 40 under-privileged children each year to attend school, including equipment uniform and exam fees.
- 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.
Non Governmental Organsations – Community Groups and Projects
During the 20 years that the charity has been working in Gorkha, then a range of community based projects have been undertaken and this includes working with local groups and NGOs (non – governmental organisations). Such groups are aware of the needs of the community and so linking with them provides support for the projects most needed. Each of the groups are represented on the GDHEDS Nepal committee who then link with GDS in the UK.
Early projects included supporting the Gorkha Lions club as they tried to gain funds for repair to a much needed ambulance. Funds were raised in the UK and the vehicle was repaired. Later, 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.
Two groups which have gained long term support are the women’s group (GWA) and the youth group The YouthMovement For the Environment (TYME). Volunteers from these groups have helped support projects such as the clinics, the hygiene education and the schools toilets projects.The GWA remains active today on the Nepal Committee
Gorkha Women’s Association (GWA) and the Youth Movement for the Environment