17th April 2020

A text message to the Gurkhas

Many of the Gurkha veterans and widows we support in Nepal live in remote communities. We visit the most vulnerable often to make sure they receive the funds we pay them, check their health and to deliver medication. However, with Nepal in lockdown due to COVID-19, we are having to limit our visits.

Visits to homes during lockdown

Thanks to permission from the Government of Nepal we continue to visit those in need of essential healthcare and medication and observe social distancing guidelines when doing so. However we have also ensured that all of the ex soldiers and their families in Nepal understand the importance of sticking to the new COVID-19 rules to keep them safe. With so many of them living ‘off the grid’ with no regular access to mainstream media we needed to find a different way to reach them.

Sending an SMS text

Over the last year staff across our 20 Welfare Centres in Nepal have been ensuring that they have contact details for all of our veterans and widows. When soldiers have come to the Medical Clinics or our team has paid them their pension they have collated contact details. In some cases that has meant physically buying them a phone and a sim card or getting the phone number of those who care for them full-time or live nearby.

As a result, since the pandemic began the team have been able to get a series of messages out to over 12,000 Gurkhas living in Nepal.

Using their Army training – Roman Nepali

Our team hit a couple of issues when putting the SMS messages together for the veterans. Many of our pensioners are unable to read or write in their native Nagari script. On top of that, the character limit per SMS message is 160 characters, and some of the Nagari letters use up to 3 spaces. As a result they opten to use ‘Roman Nepali’.

When in the Army, the soldiers were taught how to use ‘Roman Nepali’ – a method used often in the Brigade of Gurkhas where Nepali words are spelled in the English alphabet to allow both British Officers and Nepali soldiers to understand.

What we sent

On Tuesday 23 March, the day after lockdown was announced in Nepal we sent:

“The Gurkha Welfare Trust sarkar ko sujhab anusar pensioner harulai ghar mai basna ra welfare/medical sambandhi sabai janakari phone bata lina anurodh garincha”

“As per the suggestion of Nepal government, GWT would like to request all pensioners to stay at home and call The Gurkha Welfare Trust’s local Area Welfare Centre for any welfare/medical related queries.”

On Thursday 16 April we sent the following:

“Tapaiko ausadhi sakidai cha wa tapai afno swastha sthiti bare chintit hunuhuncha vane hamilai phone bata samparka gari sallaha linuhola- The Gurkha Welfare Trust.” 

“If you are running out of your medication or are worried about your health condition, please call us so that we can offer advice.”

“Yadi pachillo 1 mahina vitra bidesh bata ayeko kasailai vetnu vayeko ya tapai, pariwar ko sadasya afai bidesh bata aunu vayeko ho vane phone garnuhola-GWT”

“If you, your family, or anyone you have met, has returned from another country within the last month, please give us a call.”

Keeping them safe

It is our responsibility to ensure that Gurkha veterans and their families live with dignity in Nepal. Though this usually means the building of earthwuake-resilient homes and the provision of healthcare and money, we need to adapt in times of change. We will continue to issue guidance and warnings to ensure that brave soldiers and their loved ones are kept as safe as possible during these turbulent times. Thank you to all of our supporters for their unwavering support.