Published: 12:00, 20 May 2014
Dreams of a new memorial statue to fallen Gurkhas took a leap forward last night at a fundraiser in Ashford with actress Joanna Lumley.
The Absolutely Fabulous star, who has long been a supporter of Gurkha welfare rights, visited Nepalese restaurant The Everest Inn at a reception for the Gurkha Memorial Fund charity.
The charity wants to build a statue in Folkestone to honour the 46,000 Gurkhas who have died serving Britain in time for the 200th anniversary of British and Nepalese relations, next year.
Miss Lumley said: "Half the congregation are Nepali and ex-Gurkhas and half are Brits from around here. We're all here to raise money for the final push to raise the last bit of money for the memorial to Gurkhas. It's going to be completely beautiful.
"There's something very significant and symbolic about a memorial, remembering the people who died and gave up their lives.
"It's terribly important. I'm behind this, the symbol for Folkestone so proud of its Gurkhas and having made them so welcome - it's such a wonderful town.
"It shows a committment and celebrates how the Gurkhas can make a real go of things in this country and bring so much to the community.
"It's a tribute to the people of this area in Kent who have shown nothing but delight and pride about having Gurkhas amongst them.
"The word community springs to mind - it's a new community, a new way of doing things. It's thrilling."
Miss Lumley added she would be donating to the cause herself.
The project, which started in 2008, is being led by former Gurkha and ex-Folkestone town councillor Dhan Gurung.
He said: "This is my dream. I've found it one of the most difficult parts of my life, to convince the people to raise the money.
"There's other events going on and this is the biggest event we've done. Obviously, Folkestone is the home of the Gurkhas and we wanted to honour the great people who have sacrificed their lives. We've lost 14 from Folkestone in Afghanistan.
"This is entirely charity, not one penny from local government, but I will always welcome them with open arms."
It is estimated the evening raised around £7,000 taking the total to about £50,000 - just £5,000 away from the charity's target.
The annual Folkestone 10k race on Sunday will also be raising money for the Gurkha Memorial Fund. For more information, visit www.folkestonecoastal10k.co.uk. For more information on the charity, visit www.gurkhamemorialfund.org.uk.
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