Bring back The Smile To Nepal started as a one off fundraising effort, by Anna Gurung and her friend Liz Holmes, in reaction to the huge earthquake that shook Nepal on April 25th 2015.
Just four months later, following weeks of hard work and furious fundraising, Anna was rewarded when official charitable status was given to her campaign by OSCR ( the official charity regulator for Scotland).
Anna’s energy and determination had meant, in a just a few months, her campaign had raised enough money to allow her to travel to Nepal and began to help rebuild homes and lives, in a country she cares so much about.
With a team of volunteers and trustees for the new charity, Bring Back The Smile To Nepal hopes to make a real difference for many years to come.
Whilst the charity is relatively new, Anna’s affection for Nepal and it’s people, dates back much further:
When news of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake, that shook Nepal on April 25th, reverberated around the world, the reports were even more distressing for the Gurung family from the quiet village of Kenmore, near Aberfeldy in Perthshire. Sanu and Anna Gurung had moved from Nepal to raise a family and to enable Sanu to work in the rafting and outdoor adventure business. Although Anna’s family live in Aberdeenshire, the couple settled on Perthshire. “ The rivers, mountains and terrain make Perthshire very much like the areas of Nepal that Sanu worked and grew up in. We knew we would feel at home here”. Anna explained.
They first met in 1993, when Anna travelled to Nepal. Although she had to return to the UK, the following year she made the arduous trip across the border from Bangladesh – where she had been working as a volunteer. A chance meeting brought them together again, they feel in love and married in 2000. Although they had always hoped to raise a family in Nepal, the political unrest in the country, which followed the 2001 massacre of King Birendra and nine members of the Royal family at the Narayanhity Royal Palace in Kathmandu, persuaded Sanu and Anna to uproot and settle in the tranquillity of Highland Perthshire.
With their three children, Sanu and Anna had visited Nepal as recently as October last year. Their family and friends still fresh in their minds, the news of the largest earthquake for 80 years, meant an anxious and nerve racking wait, as they desperately tried to contact their family in the Darachok district of Nepal. With phone lines down and power supplies sporadic, it was a fretful 72 hours spent trying to contact their loved ones. “Eventually”, Anna said, “we confirmed that Sanu’s parents had survived but their house was unsafe and they were having to live in tents”. Further calls helped them discover that although Sanu’s Aunt had witnessed her house reduced to rubble, she had escaped unscathed. His sister, who lived in Kathmandu had also been lucky. They were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Although their own family had been comparatively lucky, the couple’s deep affection for the country and it’s people meant they felt the need to try and help, in any way they could. Anna, together with one of her close friends, immediately hit on the idea of a parachute jump to raise funds for Mercy Corps relief efforts in Nepal. Anna quickly realised that rebuilding of Nepal would require substantially more than a single skydive, however.
Other fundraising projects were undertaken, a brand name was added, and charitable status was applied for.
“Nepal is a beautiful country”, said Anna, “ the first thing everyone notices when they visit, is everyone’s amazing smile. We want to do whatever we can to help bring that back. The monsoon season is coming, communications are difficult and there are problems with the drinking water. We decided we had to act now”
In late July 2015 ( with courtesy of a grant to assist with her travel costs ) Anna travelled to Nepal and began to help deliver aid personally.
By the end of August the newly formed charity had already assisted more than 70 families to rebuild homes and had formed useful links and contacts to enable many, many more to be helped in the near future.
September saw the charity gain the backing of TV personality and well known Nepal campaigner Joanna Lumley OBE. In addition the charity became members of the Scottish Council Of Voluntary Organisations ( SCVO ) and was included, for the first time, on the largest charity database in the UK – www.charitychoice.co.uk.
STV also interviewed Anna about her campaign and her trip to Nepal.
Anna plans to return to Nepal next year to continue the good work.