10th December 2020
The Chairman welcomed everybody and thanked our Patron, His Excellency Durga Subedi for joining us, as his time as Ambassador draws to a close and extended a warm welcome to Mrs Roshan Khanal, who arrived to take up the role of DCM.
Before going on to report on this uniquely challenging year, it is appropriate that we pause and remember those whom we have lost in 2020.
So, to 2020. It began well enough for BNS with a well-attended Annual Supper in February. We toasted the magnificent achievement of Nirmal Purja MBE in smashing the record for climbing the world’s 14 peaks over 8000 metres. We also saluted our good friend Professor Surya Subedi OBE QC for being awarded an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law by Oxford University.
We were looking forward to the year. But COVID 19 locked us down. A Diamond Anniversary year to forget, then. Or was it? Very definitely not, in fact. We were denied our socialising, but I am proud of the way the Society faced up to the crisis
Your committee gathered information and decided in the summer that this was a crisis for Nepal on a par with the 2015 earthquake. Although our crisis reserve was a drop in the ocean of need, this was a time to release it. Fortunately, we had a great asset already on the ground, in the form of our Chairman of Younger Members Kirtijai Pahari, stuck in Kathmandu by the lockdown. Kirtijai came up with proposals for two phases- a first phase of emergency food and PPE supplies to the most vulnerable, and a second where we would make a more lasting contribution to the fight against the pandemic through supply of AIRVO equipment. We decided to launch a COVID Relief Appeal to supplement the £20,000 we had available in the crisis reserve. Members began to respond, and then to respond some more. As I speak to you our Appeal has doubled the £20,000. A great effort.It would also be great if Britain could reinforce her special bond with Nepal by getting supplies of vaccine loaded up and enroute to Kathmandu and Pokhara airports. As the BNS, we should push for that politically. Our voice in such matters has been strengthened by the further development this year of our partner organisation, BRANNGO. This networking forum for the 1000 plus British or UK-linked NGOs who do charitable work in Nepal has accelerated down the runway on 2020 and now has wheels up. That is a credit not only to our own David and Joanna Thomas, as founders, not only to the great energies and commitment of former CEO now Chairman Nick Hinton, but to all the BRANNGO sector leaders and working group members. BRANNGO and BNS complement each other. The direction of travel is for even closer collaboration.
2020 also did not deflect us from consolidating our new tradition, introduced in 2018, of making a one-off grant of circa £1000 to a small but deserving cause. This year’s winner is Help Nepal Foundation. In 2021 the competition will again launch after the end of our financial year in June
A word or two about the future. For several years now we have been examining the pros and cons of becoming a charity. This is an ongoing process, and we hope to be able to update you further in 2021.
Gavin Edgerley Harris who has announced as he leaves his long and valuable tenure as Director of the Gurkha Museum that he would also like to step down from the Committee. I am sure you all join me in thanking Gavin for his service.
Just one more thing before we conclude. As you know, we have the privilege of the service on our committee, ex officio, of the Gurkha Brigade Major, Mani Rai MBE. I am delighted to tell those of you who have not yet heard that Mani has been appointed as a Deputy Lord Lieutenant by Her Majesty the Queen. This not only recognises Mani’s tremendous service to this country as a Gurkha and a symbol of the Gurkhas, but also that Nepalis resident in this country are now interwoven with the heart of Britishness. Britain and Nepal are intertwined. That is why we here. That is why we are the BNS.
The Chairman then invited Treasurer, Colonel Rupert Litherland to present his financial report and to comment on membership numbers. In conclusion the Chairman invited Kirtijai Pahari to give an update on the COVID 19 situation in Nepal.
The full Chairman’s report is available on the Society’s new website www.britainnepalsociety.org