A few days after the major earthquake of 12th May 2015, I had a deep calling to go to Nepal: it was as if I had to go and help my brothers and sisters who were in such a desperate situation. It was not a calling to join any NGO but rather to go alone to places where government or NGO help had not reached. It was a strange feeling of familiarity, for I had never been to Nepal nor did I know anyone there, but yet it was familiar cry of despair, loss and poverty within poverty. It was a reminder of the exodus of 1972 when my family and 80,000 Asians faced expulsion from Uganda, the place of my birth and where my family had lived for generations. Though in our case it was a political cause, and in Nepal and western part of India the earthquake was a natural cause, they share similar consequences of destruction, shock and chaos, with the loss of lives, homes, possessions and displacement from the familiar landscape to unknown neighbourhoods where life has to begin anew.
I knew that I could not go empty handed to help these people so decided to raise money by holding a supper evening in the studio above my clinic, The Alchemy. We had previously held fundraising supper clubs for another charitable organization, the Barefoot College in Tillonia in Rajastan, founded by Bunker Roy.
Our new supper evening, through donations of patients, friends and family raised nearly £3,000 and my kind brother, Zulee offered to match the same amount for the victims of Nepal! I felt comfortable to go with this amount of money, knowing that I would be able to help one or two villages and bring change to the lives of at least a few people.
I had one condition about this humanitarian work I had chosen do: That 100% of the donations would reach the people whom I was ‘guided’ to help. I would pay for all my travel and accommodation expenses. We would be guided by listening to the stories of the people and their needs. Although the first aim would be to provide for immediate needs, it would be a long term project including the victims working as a team to rebuild homes, schools and villages, therefore avoiding any social class, cast and gender inequalities.
Our long term goals are:
• empowering people to be self sufficient
• raising living standards by improving literacy, both in the elderly and the young
• improving hygiene and sanitation
• help end inequality of gender, class and cast system by means of sensitive documentary films and theatre
• making clean fresh water available through water harvesting and filtration
• introducing solar energy
• improving agricultural methods as required and bringing in co-operative marketing
• creating opportunities for young graduates to work in Europe and return with new ideas and different cultural values
• most importantly, learning whatever they may have to offer