24th May 2016

A change of leadership

This week Colonel (Retd) William Shuttlewood OBE passed the torch to our new Director, Al Howard, as he headed off into retirement.

We caught up with them both during their handover to discuss their work to date, plans for the future and any challenges that may lie ahead.

Time at the Trust

The Trust’s work clearly means a great deal to William, who has spent over a decade at its helm. He discussed his abiding impression of his time here:

“I don’t have a favourite memory of my time at The Gurkha Welfare Trust. I think it would be invidious to try and define one if truth be known, because it’s been eleven years of the most remarkable experiences of my life.

“I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been doing this at a time of change, at a time when the Trust is able to make a real difference in the foothills of the Himalayas.”

Any advice?

We asked William if he had any advice for Al…

“Enjoy the experience – understand that you really are making a huge difference. This job changes people’s lives for the better. Understand that the people we support are what we are all about.”

Al is more than ready for the challenge. Having spent the last five years in Nepal working with one of GWT’s implementing partners – the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association (KAAA) – he’s enthusiastic about maintaining his links with Nepal.

“I hope it will give me the opportunity to use the expertise I’ve garnered. I understand what is required and expected of the Trust in Nepal and I think my time there has given me a valuable insight into the implementation of work in the region.”

The Nepal earthquakes

Both William and Al were involved in the response to last year’s earthquakes – William as Director of the Trust and Al in his previous role as Director of KAAA.

Speaking about the challenge of our earthquake response, William said:

“The earthquake was a national crisis and when you have a single crisis like that you can focus on it, marshal the resources required and deal with it – and that is what we are doing at the moment. It will be a long term programme (3-5 years), costing a huge amount of money (£18 million).”

Al was in Nepal when the first quake struck in April last year and witnessed first-hand the work the Trust’s field team was doing right from the offset.

“The key difference between the Trust and many others involved [in the earthquake response] is that the Trust was always there. It has a footprint through its Welfare Centres and it is not going anywhere.

“As a result, we have extensive local knowledge and our beneficiaries know and trust us.”

Supporting communities

William and Al share similar ideas regarding the challenges ahead. As time has passed our Gurkha veterans and their widows have grown older. As a result, we’ve had to adapt, becoming more responsive and mobile – bringing individual aid to people’s homes.

On top of that, the Trust has expanded its community work across rural Nepal – notably building schools and water projects. William explains why community aid forms an important part of our work:

“When I was part of the Brigade of Gurkhas our ethos was always to look after our own. And our own includes the country of Nepal, because that is the homeland of these remarkable soldiers.

“During my recent visits to Nepal I have come across a number of Queen’s Gurkha Engineers on Op MARMAT (serving Gurkha soldiers who are supporting the Trust’s earthquake response). Without exception, they have all been thrilled to have been deployed to help their countrymen in a time of crisis and this reflects our community aid ethos.”

Next steps for William and Al

We’re told that William is not sure what his plans for retirement are and that, should we want to know, we should ask his wife instead.

Meanwhile, Al is ready and raring to lead the Trust into a new chapter. As he does so, he has Yeti, his much loved Leonberger dog by his side – who, we are told, is adjusting back to UK life just fine.

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