Team Rubicon Lights Up The Villages in Nepal

Retired officer, Umesh Pun MVO, community champion for Gurkha Stories, has just returned from his successful third visit to Nepal to distribute aid with the charity Team Rubicon UK.  He and his colleagues distributed much-needed equipment and materials for building houses in remote villages with communities of both the very elderly and school age. As you’ll see from the photos Team Rubicon achieved so much good on this trip and it’s very rewarding to see the donations being put to such good causes.  Solar lights were given to villages, schools and houses were rebuilt and donated to communities in the Gorkha district, Takum village and Padelthok Ghau Ward4.  Team Rubicon partnered up with the Chaudari Foundation, PwC London and Seed Charity organisations to give the gift of light!

The photos of Umesh Pun MVO tell the stories…

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“Hip Hip Hooray!” – Gurkha Veterans Awarded PJM Medal today…

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293 Gurkha veterans from the London area proudly received their Pingat Jasa Malaysia Medal with dignity today in a formal ceremony which took place in Colchester, arranged by Capt. (Ret’d) Umesh Kumar Pun MVO. Umesh has made it one of his goals to apply for the PJM medal for as many veterans as he can discover who are eligible to receive it.  He applies on their behalf and then arranges a ceremony according to geographical location.  So far around 3,000 Gurkha veterans have received their PJM medals all thanks to Umesh’s dedicated work.

The PJM medal is one which was awarded by the King and Government of Malaysia in recognition of the veterans’ service during the Malayan Emergency, Second Malayan Emergency, and the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation over 50 to 60 years ago.  Today the ceremony was was opened by a Piper who led the the visiting General of the Malaysian Army who then presided over the ceremony.  The General thanked the veterans for their brave contributions all those decades ago in an extremely difficult climate and dangerous conditions. The veterans gave a rousing three cheers to the General.

The average age of the veterans is approaching 80 years old, but the oldest veteran of all to receive his medal was retired Corporal Dal Prasad at 92 years old. He presented the General with a special present of a Nepalese scarf in gold colour as a thank you to the Government of Malaysia.

It was a truly special day and an honour to be invited as a guest.

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Karna Bahadur Rana’s story…

Originally born in India while his father was in the Indian Army, Karna and his mother moved back to their mountain village in Nepal to farm when he was around three years old. Karna saw active combat service in Malaysia during the 1960s and was ambushed four times. Karna’s story is recounted in our book, published later this year…

After getting enlisted into the Gurkhas, the basic training that we did as a new recruit after coming to Malaysia was all about fighting battles: how to kill your enemy and how to survive. For that we must remember and was taught that fitness was very important before going to the battle. With fitness, one is able to survive and destroy the enemy and also save lives of our friends.

Karna features in our short film which can be viewed on our website by clicking on here.

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Portrait by Roy Essery

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(Photo: Gurkha Museum)

One year on… NCS reunites with Abbeygate House

It is one year since last August’s tea party at Abbeygate House with the young National Citizen Service (NCS) young adults. This summer’s 2015 group for the NCS in Colchester has spent the last month fundraising to sponsor young children in Nepal to attend school.  The young group went on a sponsored walk and a busking session in the town and raised almost £400 for schools children in Nepal.

As a thank you, the Gurkha community invited the group to a lunch party in early August and a lot of dancing went down! A fusion of traditional Nepalese dancing holding heavy trays and skilfully balancing them while twirling mixed with Colchester’s finest young ‘groovers’!

The event coincided with the Colchester Gazette awarding the Gurkha community at Abbeygate House with their ‘Local Hero’ award and £100 to share with the home for their voluntary work in the community, tending gardens, planting vegetables and promoting vibrant garden spaces in public areas.

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Bhui’s story

Bhui Maya Rana arrived at Abbeygate House in Colchester in October 2014 after making the decision to live in the UK in her ninth decade. Bhui’s husband, Hira Bahadur Rana, joined the British Gurkhas after 1947. They were married in 1948 when Bhui was 15  years old but sadly she was widowed by her 30s. Bhui joined her husband in Hong Kong and Brunei and briefly visited Singapore during her time as a Gurkha wife.

Bhui’s story…

I lived in a place called Manakamana, and the nearest town I used to live near is called Gorkha. It used to take about one day [walk on foot, no cars]. So when I go in the morning, then I would get there in evening time. But for Pokhara, it used to take us three days to get there.

I didn’t go to school because there was no school there and I had to do farming and all the housework… Bhui’s story continues here: http://gurkhastories.com/portfolio-view/bhui-maya-rana/

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Hong Kong c. 1960 when Bhui lived there (photo by Major Godwin)

A Time for Celebration of Our Gurkha Stories Project!

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The stunning Colchester Castle was a-buzz with our vibrant and colourful party of Gurkha veterans, their wives and families yesterday along with our supporters from the community of Colchester. We were celebrating our project’s amazing achievements and I can honestly say I couldn’t have wished for a better atmosphere and outcome.  We have all worked very diligently and meticulously for the last 12 months to achieve all our outcomes and now we are deservedly celebrating the Gurkha community in Colchester and their life stories!

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We’d like to give a massive thank you to our Army Covenant funders for coming along and taking part in the celebrations and to Colchester’s local dignitaries, Will Quince MP and Sir Bob Russell, for showing their support. And, of course, thanks goes to the hardest-working museum team in the country at Colchester Museum for giving us the amazing venue for the afternoon and exhibition space all summer.

Watching the super efficiency of a group of Gurkhas working together is a sight to behold.  It’s like working with a group of magical genies who just make everything happen effortlessly.  So when the community comes together many hands make light work and magic happens when organisation comes into play! Turn your back on a room for 30 seconds and it’s all been set up or struck down according to the plan. There’s a valuable lesson to be learnt about working in harmony for the greater good.

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The lovely Gurkha ladies put on a tasty buffet of traditional Nepalese food and many of us had a crack at the freestyle Nepalese dancing throughout the afternoon. But my favourite was a veteran who gave it some cool grooves.

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The 308 Air Cadets were on hand to chat about the Gurkha film they made and we were able to show our school activity pack, the many photos from 1950s,’60s to present day and audio excerpts from the veterans’ interviews.

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Overall we’ve recorded around 40 hours of life stories from the veterans.  But we hope this is just the beginning for Gurkha Stories as we will seek funding for our next phase. The interviews tell of the veterans’ childhoods, their families, why they joined the Gurkhas and how they coped, plus life after the army.  It’s been good to record the veterans from their own perspective and the oral history book of their interviews will be published in the autumn.

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Our Gurkha Stories exhibition runs throughout the summer at Colchester Castle up until 13th September 2015.  Please do share our website and blog with your friends and the public.

http://gurkhastories.com/

The more people who read and hear their stories the better. We thank you so much for your support.

Om Sherchan’s background story illustrates how desperate he was to enlist as a teenager…

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Interview extract…

In 1963, we had to go to the Brunei war. We worked as SAS during the war. Times were very hard. We thought we were not going to make it back alive. Why? Because at that time we had one British officer, myself as a medic, an engineer who cleared away areas and handled cash and a radio operator from the Signals. There were just four of us who went on an operation in that hostile Brunei jungle. It was not just for one or two days, it was for one or one and a half month at a time. We even infiltrated the Indonesian camp and sent back valuable intelligence. We spent months in the jungle, just the four of us. That was a difficult time and at that time we did not have hopes of returning back alive.

More of Om’s story excerpts can be read on our main website: http://gurkhastories.com/portfolio-view/gurkha-13/