by Tim Collins
Gurkhas struggling to make a new life in Kent now have a centre of support to call on in Ashford.
Hundreds of former Gurkha soldiers and their families arrive in Britain confused, homeless and penniless every year.
Britain’s first Gurkha Help Centre is being launched at Ashford Gateway Plus to assist them upon their arrival.
A number of former Gurkhas attended the official opening of the centre, held today.
Among them was Gurkha Welfare Officer, Captain Gary Ghale, who said: “I think it will make a big difference.
“It will be easier and more appealing for Gurkhas to come here because they know there is someone who can speak the language, which makes it easier for them to approach us.
“The service will mean that rather going to different places, Gurkhas will have a central place to come to.
“We will have a Gurkha welfare advisor manning the desk so that they can actually converse in their own language and we will be able to deal with their welfare needs in a more efficient and effective manner.”
The centre will be a “one-stop-shop” where fellow countrymen, council officials and Armed Forces charity experts will assist former Gurkhas and their dependants.
It will help them with access to accommodation, National Insurance numbers, food, state benefits and medical and remedial services, as well as filling in the necessary forms.
The centre has been opened by the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), a nationwide charity that helps and supports servicemen, both past and present.
Col Jo Gunnell, chairman of the Kent Branch of SSAFA, added: “It is a memorable day for countless former British Army Gurkha soldiers who fought for this country and now want to retire here.
“No longer need they feel helpless and alone, pitched against seemingly insurmountable problems and national and local government bureaucracy.”