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Dear Friends,

I wish to thank everyone again who has contacted us with their best wishes of encouragements and donations for our very brave Nepalese friends in 2015.

With this wonderful support, great work is been done to help some of the most vulnerable there.

As I am off to Nepal for three months from 5th February, I think this update is important.

I last went mid-September and stayed amongst our friends two and half months. For weeks prior to going, I had been very apprehensive at the thought of finding a devastated land with traumatised people, especially the children. Although there was much upheaval everywhere, l was amazed to find resilient and positive people almost everywhere.

Nepal seem to have disappeared form the News making many people think that the crisis is now over. Far from it...

Life in Nepal is chaotic and people live badly. Little re-construction post earthquakes has happened but much clearing up in the big cities had gone on. Many historic buildings and famous landmarks have disappeared but the sites have been cleaned up to the effect that you sometimes wonder if there was a temple there at all before.

But many areas looked like they had been hit by shells. Collapsed dwellings all over. Pretty villages flattened and replaced by Shanti towns.

Yes, the reality of seeing my friends and their children living precarious lives under tarpaulin is hard to bare and the little help most have received from the government is rather shocking.

As if the devastation was not enough to bare, the country has been enduring the bullying from India who closed its Trade Routes with Nepal last September, effectively strangulating the ravaged country with disastrous humanitarian results for the most vulnerable, especially the children.

Two days after a long awaited New Constitution voted by 90% of Nepalese, India-backed rebels stopped supplies coming in overnight. India did it in the past to flex its muscles but this time it is a catastrophe (more about the crisis right at the end of this Newsletter)

Ban Ki Moon of the UN has denounced the blockade as illegal under International Law and made many attempts to bring it to light without result. Nevertheless The Indian Prime Minister, Mr Modi, was given the full Royal and Red Carpet treatment during his recent visit to doubt thanking us for the Aid we still give to his buoyant economy (The UK remains committed to give India another quarter of a billion pounds (£254 millions) in aid until 2019).

With next to no fuel nor kerosene, thousands of vehicles are stranded and queuing days and night for a maximum 10 litres of petrol (only 6 lts for motorbikes) paying between five and eight times the original price.

Work on roads blocked by collapse or landslides after the quakes and heavy monsoon has stopped because of lack of fuel, leaving buses, lorries and diggers abandoned by the side of roads everywhere.

This blockade affects everybody and it is scandalous.
It is very difficult for School buses to operate including providing meals. Many schools have closed as a result.

Hospitals dependent on fuel for generators in an electricity-starved country are struggling, when still open.

Some Newspapers reduced publication because of shortage of paper and fuel to operate machines, salt is rare and costly, so is cooking oil. The lack of cooking gas in cities means women cook on the streets using wood salvaged from collapsed buildings.

The impact is not only affecting cities. It is difficult, expensive and dangerous to travel on the roofs of over-crowed buses and the collecting and deliveries of farm produce to the cities has been hampered, ruining already struggling rural communities.

Shortages of essential medicines, cement for rebuilding, steel and iron for construction add to the endless list.

A thriving black economy has sprung up, inevitably, funding the rebels.

The blockade by India, however, seems to have united the people of Nepal rather than divide as we suspect was the plan.

To add to the grief, of course tourists stay well away creating the near collapse of the "industry" supporting hundreds of thousands of Nepalese.

Some of my immediate neighbours have moved in the Monkey House which is one of the safest houses in old Kathmandu. Coming home after 9pm in the dark we have to negotiate around bodies under quilts on the floors, trying not to tread on the babies and the elderly.

I was glad to be back in Nepal and able to do something constructive rather than just worry from far away.

You cannot under-estimate the impact of the help and support so many of you have given to our friends there.

Yes, I did look like a pack mule at Kathmandu airport. No surprise there.

For the school we sponsor in Etay village I gave the 5 kgs of colourful Lego pieces that travelled with me hand luggage (a mere 25 kgs...woops).

When l tipped over the bags on the carpeted floor it was like the awe and magic at Christmas!

All the students from 5 to 16 years old still present after school time went for it. Bigger ones helping the smaller ones. I planned to demonstrate for a while but not a chance. I only had a warning to them, making sure the small kids do not put pieces in their mouth and swallow !

I watched and remembered how much l loved building houses, safe and happy when my immediate environment wasn't always so. Perhaps it will be of comfort to those who lost much in the earthquakes, including their confidence.

Absolutely fantastic, making me very humble and moisty eyed.

Dear old Lego!

You may remember Sujal, Puja and Roshan, the three "abandoned" children  at the school. We have secured financial support to guarantee their security and education, for this year at least. We have to work on making it more long term for them.

They are doing well but you can see they are different from the other kids who have parents, even though they are poor.

The one who worries me most is little Sujal. "Dumped" aged 6, I find it really difficult to make him smile let alone laugh. So sad!

I made the three of them choose a soft toy each out of the many l brought over for the nursery/pre-school class. They are a priority to me and they are able to keep the toy as theirs whereas the other children use the toys as a library.

It was very touching to see the three of them looking at a whole pile and slowly selecting THE ONE for them.

I asked them to give the soft animal a name, then l introduced them to their new best friend.

All 3 were like charmed by the toy. Roshan the eldest boy went to bury his bear, Tommy, in his bed in the dorm. Puja placed her bear Subita on a table in the playgroup classroom where she could watch it and little Sujal did not let go of his lion he calls Raj for one second. Fabulous but telling !

The small rural community of Etay and surrounding area is poor but not unique in Nepal. Many dwellings have collapsed.

The farmers who, like two thirds of the population in Nepal, are landless people forced to work as bonded labour of the landed rich. They do not own the very land they toil from dawn to dusk and have been living in servitude for generations, with little cash and hope to break the cycle for a brighter future. Their children are their only hope if they attend school and find work in the city or abroad, subsidising the families by sending money home.

Coming from the outside, like l do, has its benefit. It shows that there is a world still functioning out there. I gave several pep talks to the teachers and management of Namo Buddha School to boost moral after so much damage occurred in the community and enrolled two lady teachers from Primary to follow a teaching course run by a wonderful British-funded NGO in the capital.

We learned so much during the seminars. It is obvious to me that teaching should be "Child Centered" and not "Teacher Centered" as it is in most developing countries like Nepal. It was revolutionary for everybody else.

Everyone now can see it is a win-win situation and that it will greatly benefit the children long term when applied. More needs to be done.

For many years now, part of the ritual of visiting the school is the distribution of children's clothes donated by well wishers from UK. For this l always rely on the Principal and the teachers to point out which kids in the community really need it most as it is not always obvious.

This year again l was able to give warm hand knitted and crocheted hats, vests and colourful little blankets. Some garments had labels "Knitted by a lady aged 89 years old" which was astonishing to our friends who never thought  people could live so long....

Knowing how cold and uncomfortable the coming winter months would be under tarpaulin, l bought several large and thick blankets for some of the villagers with some of the money raised for The Nepal Fund. All were so welcomed and gratefully received.

I also kitted out the boarders at the school with new bed linen and warm colourful blankets.

You do realise that l put myself under immense pressure? I am a Virgo and a French one at that... I just don't do mix and match. The blankets have to match. Any surprise there?

I desperately hunted in the market and had all the warehouse stocks out. Believe me it is not easy to get 60 of the same...I ended up with the whole fraternity of otherwise highly competitive dealers hunting high and low to satisfy this eccentric foreigner.

We did it !...Got half and half and at a rate that cannot have left any of them with much of a profit, without much negotiating. It must be my grey hair again... Getting so much mileage out of it.

The bed linen were easy by comparison. I went the wholesale traders down my street who thought l was going to open a hotel. l bought a whole stock of 180m of 100% cotton printed with pink lilies on pale blue for the boys and 180m of lilies on pink ground for the girls.

l got the lot cut, sewn and packed in record time and for a record rate, again without much negotiating. People are so pleased to know we help other Nepalese.

A friend of ours, Lucy Dean, a Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture practitioner now based in Geneva, was in Nepal with our friends during the earthquakes. She saw first hand the gravity of the situation and assisted in the Gorkha region, one of the most affected areas. Back in Europe she wanted to do something that would help the Nepalese with pain relief not relying on drugs and sent trained volunteers to Etay to run a Free Pain Relief Centre. With our help they were able to stay three months at the school and greatly helped hundreds of members in the community with treatments.

I was there when the last team was operating and the joy, friendship and love between all parties was palpable.

Another friend, Roger Marsh,  who practices Craniosacral Therapy and Acupuncture in The Shangrila Room at the Galleries was deeply affected by the dramatic events befalling our friends and their children in Nepal. Roger is planning a visit with a colleague for a few weeks of treatments in Etay. Their visit will be another "God Sent" to people who have so little. Amazing!

The Earthquake-Proof Community Centre in the small village of Etay.

Thanks to your generosity we have raised to date an incredible 50K out of the 95K needed for the construction. This made me feel confident about discussing the project with community leaders.
We have the perfect location! I knew we would. It will replace the ancient, presently crumbling, "Pilgrims" shelter in the centre of the village, only 100 yards away from the school.

The plan is to demolish and rebuilt the shelter and doubling its size by using free community land at the back of it. By doing this the building will sleep over 300 souls on three levels in case of emergency.

l investigated every possibility not only for a cost effective but also for a "green" build, having been told in UK about bamboo or recycled materials being alternatives to the re-enforced concrete option considered "old fashion" by some.

Let me tell you that l did try very hard but was laughed out and bluntly told by the local government that no private building let alone a "Public" one would be passed other than a build following international guidelines in seism-prone locations = reinforced concrete pillar system on a concrete raft in our case, not just concrete foundations. So we have to swallow and get on.

We have the perfect architect on board, Mr Yogendra Agrahari.
He restored and practically rebuilt a whole temple complex that l know very well. You would swear the whole place is ancient when in fact it is less that twenty years old. The small museum l have helped over the past few years is part of this complex. All new reinforced technology is hidden away and solid as a rock. Nothing at all happened to it during the quakes. It was not a miracle.

I trust him especially as 80% of his team are well accomplished women who manipulate computers faster than making chapattis.
Yogendra is so touched by our project and by our support to the community that he will charge us very little for his work. Nothing to do with my grey hair. The new build will look like the old one by making use of all the old wood windows and carvings that will become merely decorative rather than structurally supportive. Some will have to be restored and a few old additional ones will have to be found. My job when l next go in February.

I had three separate meetings with the whole community and its appointed leaders, the last one with the local Member of Parliament as the chief guest. This was very official with the Press in attendance.

The unveiling of the banner bearing the architects drawings made a big impact on everybody.

My speeches were translated as they went by our friend Subarna Shrestha, the School's Principal. I made it clear from the start that the financial help given for the building was not from my government but coming from donations made by individuals like me who care and are concerned about the future and safety of the community and its children in particular.

After putting forward my suggestion for having one room for visiting doctors from other districts coming over to do regular check-up clinics, we asked for comments and suggestions. Members from all ages put forward requests - a small Library - a cyber/internet point - a room for the pensioners to meet.

I suggested a few basic exercise/fitness equipment would occupy some of the younger generation who could coach the elderly who struggle with knee, back and neck problems.

I stated that there will be absolutely no place for corruption or favours to individuals and said that accounts would be regularly and thoroughly checked and made it plain that although The Nepal Fund would finance most of the building work, to make it theirs, the Community would have to participate in raising some of the cash.

The leaders had already decided to raise funds at the end of the last meeting. The equivalent of an incredible £350 was collected then and there under rounds of applause!

Together we are doing good, important and lasting work. 

Thank you for your support and for your best wishes that I always pass on to our friends and their children.

Spread the word to other like-minded friends whom you feel would like to contribute to these very worthy projects.

More good news in brief...


"Most of us would like to help those who are less fortunate than us achieve goals that, we in the West, take for granted.

I feel it is our duty to help each other, where-ever we find ourselves in the world, as we see others help us in our hours of need."

All my very best to you,

A way to contribute is by cheque made payable to

sent to
Crossing Cottage
Todenham near Moreton in Marsh

or by bank transfer to

LLOYDS TSB 30 95 75
Account 22238 668

IBAN GB43LOYD 3095 7522 238 668

The Closure of India's Trade Routes into Nepal.

This has happened before but this time it has created a man-made humanitarian disaster following the devastating earthquakes of last year.

India has been bullying Nepal for many years and has tried to influence it for its own benefit.

Nepal has an "open border" policy with India that stretches for over 1800 kilometres to the south. This province is flat and rich in agriculture which is not the case for the rest of the country that is made up of the Himalayas, the highest mountains on the planet.

The open border has meant that for many years thousands of Indian citizens from Bihar, the most populated region of India, have walked in and settled in Nepal, mostly in the south. They called themselves "Madeshis" and when asked what they consider themselves to be, the answer is pretty much without exception "Indian", which makes it confusing and complicated.

Nepal is a land-locked sovereign state that depends much on India for many of its vital supplies but being sovereign it should be able to make its decisions through its elected government despite the inevitable corruption that prevails in the sub-continent. The end of the nineties saw ten years of terrible political turmoil and the end of the monarchy. After six years of arm-wrestling between infighting parties, a New Constitution was voted in, backed by more than 90 percent of the elected Constituent Assembly on 19 September 2015.

This New Constitution includes the re-distribution of zones between agriculturally rich south and poorer mountainous regions in the north, thus strategically dividing the two main provinces in the south bordering with India. The design behind this new re-allocation was to guaranty that these two extremely populated regions ( the two provinces have 52% of Nepal total population with a majority of over 70% being Madeshis) would not be able to strike and stop trade coming in like they did several times in the past with India's backing.

India’s displeasure with this development has both symbolic and strategic dimensions. The Trade Routes into Nepal closed violently two days after the voting of the New Constitution. Nepal depends too much on India and the situation today has inflicted terrible pains on the people of Nepal who have already suffered so much with the terrible earthquakes.

Many Indian politicians and intellectuals are against Mr Modi's present policies and against the ban seeing it as a dangerous game that may well push Nepal into China's arms.

If India wants its neighbour to prosper, then why does it treat Nepal as if it still needs to be pushed around, instead of accepting that Nepal is able to move ahead as an independent nation?

But why exactly is India  pressurising Nepal?
Amongst others things, WATER!

Nepal, with the mighty Himalayas, has most of the water reserves India depends upon for its continued development. The annual monsoon crashes on the southern hills feeding what become India's biggest rivers. Snows on the tops guaranty, for the time being at least, reserves for the rest of the year. India wants water in dry season to be channelled to its northern provinces.

Plans for artificial rivers have long been drawn. India is irritated that it cannot dam its waters on flat and over-populated regions and irritated that it cannot easily establish stations for its power-stricken fast consuming population.
It wants reservoirs and power stations in Nepal, even if this means displacing millions in the wake.

But where it gets more insidious...

For years India has been backing the Madeshis living in southern Nepal, pushing for a referendum and a vote for more independence within Nepal. This, long term, would probably mean an annexation of the provinces and their large rivers as Delhi knows the people's cultural loyalties.

The other reality is that, if anything bad was to happen, lets say rioting in the south, it really does not want the Madeshis to return back into India, especially not Bihar.

Where it gets complicated is that Delhi interference into Nepal's politics is not new and Nepalese leaders have been complicit in this interference. Most of the politicians have been bank-rolled for years.

During the decade of the Maoist War (1996-2006), Nepal was in terrible violent crisis. India’s help as a neighbour was crucial in striking a peace deal in 2004 between the Nepalese government and the Maoists. Since then, Nepal has been moving through a process of "relatively peaceful" transition, making strides in a number of areas: ending monarchy, adopting secularism, promoting social inclusion and achieving development, even if corruption is endemic and rife in the subcontinent.

Some reforms have taken place and more will follow. You can always improve on a blue print. This is what a Constitution is about, and as a sovereign country, Nepal should be left alone to decide its own destiny and not act with India's foot on its throat as it is at the moment.
Interestingly enough, USA and Great Britain, including UN remain silent. China has not said much either, but is watching...It too needed the water coming from the other side of the same Himalayas