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, In 2020 the words environmental and construction projects were removed to confirm a more focused approach.
Joy Leighton – Founder, Patron. 1926 – 2022
Joy was for 25 years a teacher at the Stock Primary School near Chelmsford, Essex. In 1986 after retiring, Joy traveled for the first time to Nepal for a trekking holiday which took her through the Gorkha region. On route, Joy met Purusotam Aryal who was headmaster of a rural school Bindhyabasini School in Naraswar, and she was welcomed into his school. This started a long lasting friendship as well as a special relationship with the Gorkhali people. Following correspondence with Purushotam (by letter!) Joy founded the UK charity wanting to help the poorest people in Gorkha and returned to Gorkha in 1988 taking funds she had raised in the UK. Her desire was to make health and education more accessible to the people of Gorkha and the surrounding villages and aimed to work with local NGOs in order to achieve this.
Joy remained an active chairwoman of the UK charity for more than 20 years and worked to enhance the prospect of the people of Gorkha through facilitating projects and encouraging volunteers to become involved in the charity. Until she sadly passed away in December 2022
GDS Trustees in the UK are :-Left to Right – Naomi, Linda B, Geeta, Amir, Zoe, Linda C (not in picture).
Linda Blunt – Chair /Secretary– MSc Development Management(OU), Cert Ed. M.Hort (RHS).
Linda is a self employed horticulturist/trainer who worked for 20 years as a Senior Horticultural lecturer at Writtle College in Essex. During a sabbatical year travelling throughout Asia in 1997, Linda trekked the Annapurna Circuit and then volunteered in Gorkha through GDS. Later, Linda initiated, and for 10 years managed, a Higher Education University link between Writtle and the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science(IAAS) in Rampur, Nepal and so maintained the strong bond with the Nepali people. Following the experience of volunteering in Gorkha, Linda became active in the GDS charity and as well as being a Trustee since 1999 she is now the Chair and Secretary.
Linda runs the GDS website, works with Zoe re volunteers, and liaises with GDS and GDHEDS members in Gorkha basically keep everything together! Linda’s last visit to Nepal was November 2018 working to reconfirm links and projects.
Amir Karmacharya – Qualified Accountant – Treasurer.
Amir trained as an accountant in Nepal and was also involved in charity work in his homeland. He now lives and works as an accountant in London, UK. Amir is the Treasurer of GDS as well as helping in cultural understanding, communications and money transfer to Nepal. Amir, his wife Geeta and children were able to visit Gorkha August 2019.
Geeta Karmacharya – RGN, BSC (hons), Diabetes Specialist Nurse and Trainer.
Registered Nurse(Adult) with experience in Community and District nursing as well as Prescribing and Community Practice Teaching in north London.
Originally a very active resident of Gorkha, and President of the Gorkha Women’s Association for a number of years, Geeta also worked within the charity sector in Nepal. Mohan Shrestha, Geetas Father was founder member of the charity in Gorkha.
Geeta traveled to London and trained as a nurse and now works as a specialist diabetes nurse in London as well as looking after two children. Geeta works with her husband Amir to enhance communications with Nepal and takes particular interest in the women’s group GWA, and helps link with the hospital re the Electives programme within the charity.
Dr Naomi Cairns – MBChB BSc (Hons) Doctor
Naomi’s first connection to Gorkha was as a pen pal when a young girl after Linda brought letters from children she had taught. At 19 Naomi made her first trip to Nepal in 2011 volunteering at the Mahendra Jyoti School as a teaching assistant and has been involved with GDS ever since. Biomedical Science at Cardiff was followed by Medicine at Warwick university, and in 2019 Naomi undertook her Elective programme in Gorkha as part of her course. This was not an easy time as Gorkha Hospital was being demolished due to damage in the 2015 earthquake. However, new connections and her medical and nepali experience is already enhancing health guidance.
In 2019 Naomi graduated as a Doctor and undertook her foundation training in Warwickshire hospitals. She will shortly be continuing her training as a GP in London.
Zoe Dallow – BSc (hons) Occupational Therapy – Volunteers coordinator
Zoe spent 6 weeks volunteering in Gorkha in 2015, she then traveled parts of Asia and returned to Gorkha later that year to see her special friends and witnessed the devastation caused by the April 2015 earthquake.
After working as an Occupational Therapist in Oxford for several years Zoe is currently working in New Delhi, India. She has a particular interest in women’s rights and working in low resource countries. Zoe co-ordinates the volunteer programme and works with Linda via Whatsapp and Zoom to offer support to both volunteers and the local community in Gorkha.
Zoe has worked with the Gorkha Women’s Association (GWA) and has great respect for all the women and what they do in running health and hygiene projects for women and children.
Linda has been involved with the charity for many years behind the scenes. When her daughter Naomi became a trustee, she got more involved, helping out at charity events, Quiz nights and Garden open days. She’d happily offer IT support when needed and assisting with some admin and printing.
Linda travelled to Nepal in 2019, in Gorkha, she stayed in a family home, where she was immersed in the Nepalese culture. While in Gorkha, Linda helped with painting murals on the walls of one of the early year’s classrooms at one of the local schools, attended a women’s meeting and was invited to a committee meeting with the Gorkha side of the charity, GDHEDS.
Linda went on to trek up Poon Hill looking onto the Himalayan range of mountains. Now she finally got to fully understand the appeal of this beautiful country. At the time of the Pandemic, Linda felt it was time to do more, and get involved with the charity on a more permanent level.
Friends of GDS
Assistance is also given by many friends and family of the Trustees as well as former Trustees. Special thanks to Linda B’s husband Darren for such tremendous support and understanding. Linda C’s Husband Brian for on-going support, Jean for plant raising and lots of help, Mr and Mrs Hook for incredibly generous sponsorship and many other kind and generous donations from friends and strangers.
The mission of Gorkha Development Scheme (GDS) is to enhance the lives of those most in need within the community of Gorkha, through supporting Health and Education programmes identified. Funds raised are maximised through voluntary contributions of time and skills, minimal costs incurred and through the close working relationship and understanding between UK and Nepal committees.