A community leader who went to Nepal for a wedding ended up attending three funerals for family members killed in the devastating earthquake.
But the grieving chairman of Medway’s Gurkha Nepalese Association, Bitim Rai, has bravely remained in the country to help co-ordinate relief efforts on behalf of more than 50 families living in the Towns with Nepalese ties.
There has been great local support for those affected by the disaster, with the Gurkha Mini-Mart in Brompton High Street used as a drop off-centre for donations.
The disaster has claimed more than 5,000 lives, and is having a harrowing impact on Medway’s Nepalese community with relatives and friends reported as dead or missing.
Mr Rai was visiting the country at the time of the disaster.
Three members of his family, his uncle, cousin and brother-in-law, were killed and their funerals have already taken place.
But Mr Rai, who had returned home to attend a wedding, is staying on to help co-ordinate relief efforts on behalf of the 50-plus Medway families with Nepalese ties.
The association’s Medway branch held an emergency meeting on Monday when members came up with a 12-point campaign on how they could help those affected by the devastation which has shocked the world.
Two minutes of silence and prayers where held for those who have died in the catastrophe.
Association adviser Tashi Bhutia said: "We may be far away. We are so desperate to help. We had a lot people there and others were not there because they were booking flights or just waiting by a phone.
"We have not experienced anything like this before and there is a total sense of shock, but we know deep down that we have got get things moving – and fast..." - Tashi Bhutia
"We have not experienced anything like this before and there is a total sense of shock, but we know deep down that we have got get things moving – and fast."
Mr Bhutia is a candidate in the Medway Council elections and is helping the crisis effort alongside his campaigning.
The Gurkha Mini-Mart in Brompton High Street is being used as a drop off-centre and the shop has been swamped with donations, including blankets, warm clothing and non-perishable goods, which are being transferred to a member’s garage before being transported overseas.
He said: "We have drawn up an immediate plan before looking at a long-term one."
Shiva Rai, who runs the convenience store with wife Prerna, said: "We are liaising with other Gurkha associations and ethnic minority groups to make sure we target the right areas and the people who need it most.
"That's why we are relying on people we know out there at ground level at the moment rather than going through larger charities.
"We shall then be looking at helping out with equipment and schools and hospitals."
Mrs Rai said: "What is happening out there is heartbreaking. We all have families out there. It took me days to get hold of my family. Communication is very bad and it was very distressing. But when I eventually got through. I was so relieved."
Included in their action plan are street collections, distributing leaflets, school tag days and cake sales.
Children who go to the Poppins Nursery and Pre-School will stage a host of fundraising activities today to raise money for the cause.
People living near their base, at the Lampard Centre, Sally Port Gardens, Brompton, are welcome to go along to help boost their efforts.
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