The Britain - Nepal Medical Trust

One of the objectives of the E4 Long Distance Walk is to raise money for charity. I discussed some of the issues in working out which charity in an earlier blog and, after some really helpful discussions with The Britain Nepal Medical Trust (BNMT) I have made progress. Current thinking is that, working with the BNMT over the next few months, we can develop a proposition which supports their objectives and is as interesting as possible to the people I’m trying to engage with on the walk.

So why Nepal and why the BNMT?

Nepal with 8 of world’s 10 highest mountains is an incredibly beautiful country and is a very special place for trekkers. My wife and I have been there twice (Annapurna and Everest) and we are going again in November to Kanchenjunga on our biggest trek so far.

You can argue that the history of modern trekking started in Nepal. In 1965 Colonel Jimmy Roberts, a former Gurkha Officer and Military Attaché at the British Embassy in Kathmandu, had the then revolutionary idea of providing trekkers with tents and Sherpas, to guide and cook, establishing a model which is still used. This opened up Nepal and the Himalaya to a wider community with many British companies, which now offer destinations worldwide, starting businesses in Nepal. Despite the growth of alternatives Nepalese treks feature high in any top ten list and the trek to Everest base camp is the trekker’s equivalent of a medieval pilgrimage. Sir Christian Bonington is one Patron of BNMT and Colonel James Stuart is another – maintaining a Gurkha link. A late founder patron of BNMT, Colonel Charles Wylie, was logistics officer to Lord Hunt’s successful ascent of Everest.

Nepal is also a very poor country and one of the least developed in the world. It suffered a 12 year civil war which ended in 2006 after 13,000 people had lost their lives. The monarchy has been replaced by a republic but peace is fragile. As well as the legacy of war the country has only embryonic governance and welfare structures, a particularly complex ethnic history and a very underdeveloped infrastructure. Many of its people though are lively entrepreneurs and show true resilience in adversity.

BNMT started in Nepal in 1966 when a team of British nurses and doctors approached the Nepalese government with an offer to help. It was established as a UK registered charity a year later. Initially concentrating on the control of tuberculosis (over 1 million BCG vaccinations provided by 1976) it has developed a broader based capacity building programme for improved health, transforming itself from a British to a Nepalese managed operation in the process.

Its current objectives sound familiar to those of us who have worked in UK local government, namely:

· To empower people at the community level by ensuring access to information and access and control over local resources and through increased assertiveness improve participation in decision making.
· To strengthen governmental and non-governmental health service providers at district, regional and national levels.
· To improve the livelihoods of disadvantaged people.

While the context is completely different to the UK there is a shared belief that empowering people locally secures good governance and good public services. The charity’s Board is UK based with British and Nepalese trustees.Company administration is from Tonbridge, Kent. BNMT is now a Nepalese managed operation with Nepalese Co-Directors and around 30 staff working on programmes “in country”. Compared to the UK, relatively small amounts of money go a long way in Nepal; the overheads to the charity are minimal and the impact of any funds raised can be very significant.

In discussions with Dr Ian Baker, a BNMT trustee, we have agreed that any sponsorship and other donations I receive for the E4 walk will raise money for the charity’s work. The projects in Nepal which are supported by funds I raise will be described on this blog and on the website (once I’ve set it up), hopefully with some direct inputs from the staff in Nepal.

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