Gurkha veterans’ call for assistance
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
THE Gurkha Welfare Trust is calling on Brunei to help Gurkha veterans in Nepal, where thousands of ageing ex-soldiers are living in hardship and suffering from chronic illnesses.
Karen England, fundraising and communications director at the British-based charity, said they are aiming to raise six million pounds (BND$12.7 million) over the next few years to support an expansion of the organisation’s medical programme in the Himalayan nation.
The expansion is part of ‘Our Duty of Care Appeal’, which The Gurkha Welfare Trust launched this year in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of Gurkha service to the British Crown.
With their fighting days long over, England said a medical audit found that a third of all elderly Gurkha pensioners in Nepal either had a life-limiting condition or a condition that severely affects their quality of life such as blindness, arthritis, deafness and dementia.
“We realise that we have to increase our medical care for these now very elderly, frail veterans and their widows,” she said, encouraging people to donate online via www.gwt.gov.uk.
The appeal will enable The Gurkha Welfare Trust to employ mobile doctors and district nurses to trek from village to village to provide primary medical care for elderly Gurkha veterans, many of whom are house-bound and live in remote hillside areas.
In addition, the funds will go towards building fully-equipped pathology laboratories at key welfare centres to ensure faster, more efficient diagnosis for pensioners.
“We also want to help the families by setting up a home carer’s allowance to pay the family member who’s caring for their elderly relatives. I’m sure it’s the same in Brunei, where a lot of families care for the elderly,” said England.
She explained the home carer’s allowance was proposed to alleviate the financial burden of caregivers who look after their ageing Gurkha relatives.
The appeal will also enable The Gurkha Welfare Trust to buy mobile medical equipment to facilitate routine operations in remote regions and rapidly deploy operating facilities during disaster relief, besides providing palliative as well as end-of-life care and support.
Of the 6,500 ex-Gurkha soldiers and widows under the charity’s care, over 3,000 are 80 years old and above with some reaching 100 years of age.
“We’ve still got World War II veterans alive and we’ve definitely got veterans who fought in the Brunei Rebellion. There’s always been a Gurkha battalion based in Brunei, so many of our veterans have served there too,” said England.
Noting the sultanate’s strong affinity for the Gurkhas, she hoped the people of Brunei will come forward to support ‘Our Duty of Care Appeal’.
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes that hit Nepal recently, she said the appeal highlighted the need for The Gurkha Welfare Trust to provide more flexible and mobile medical care to adequately care for the health of ageing Gurkhas.
Citing latest reports, England estimated that over 2,300 veterans’ homes, along with a number of schools and water projects built by the charity, were badly damaged.
“Our veterans have been very, very badly affected. The epicentres are in the traditional recruiting lands of the Gurkhas, so the villages that you’ve seen on television, many of them are villages in which our veterans live,” she said.
A couple of the organisation’s welfare centres were also severely damaged, but none of their staff and services were affected.
England also expressed their delight over the attendance of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, at the Gurkha 200 Pageant in London last Tuesday.
“It showed the affection and respect that His Majesty and his country hold for the Gurkhas. I hope the close relationship between the United Kingdom, Brunei and Nepal continues,” she said.
Organised by The Gurkha Welfare Trust, the open-air pageant celebrated 200 years of Gurkha service and loyalty to the British Crown with performances showcasing Nepalese culture and tradition as well as the legendary Gurkha military prowess.
The Brunei Times