A plan by Rosa and Ian Matheson from Highworth to build a brand new orphanage in Nepal has been set back after it became clear on a recent trip to survey the site that their lives and those of the children they wanted to rehouse would be in danger.
Rosa and Ian’s bid to help former Nepali mountain and trekking guide ‘Angel’ Bikram Shahi provide better care for the 22 orphaned children he and his wife have taken under their wing has been featured in The Link several times this year, and Toothill Primary School is supporting the fundraising effort.
On return from a trip to Nepal, Rosa said they had to quickly change plans. “The conditions Angel’s family were in were dreadful when we first met them in the Spring; the children were constantly ill and unhappy because they never knew where their next meal would come from.
“This time we went to Nepal with Ben Wallace, a chartered surveyor, with a plan to build an ecologically sustaining orphanage and farm, bringing water to the village at the same time.
“But once we arrived in Kathmandu it was obvious that the political situation had greatly deteriorated in the last six months. Political and civil unrest had flared up again and the Maoist rebels had seized the land we had identified for building. Local contacts advised not to visit the village and to reconsider the site of the new orphanage.
“Angel himself had been threatened in the past by the Maoists and they were harassing him over the proposed building works. It was clear that we could not place him or his family in danger.”
However because of the conflict there has been population migration to the capital and land prices in Kathmandu match those in London. The group looked at twenty houses and signed a three year lease on the one they thought suitable. Before Angel’s family moved in on 1 December, a well had to be sunk, whilst security and electric wiring had to be improved.
The money raised by Toothill Primary School head Martyn Cowell running the Swindon half marathon 5k, and fundraising by other supporters, was spent on buying furniture and bedding.
“Once settled in, our next endeavour will be to get the children into school,” said Rosa. "Whilst government schools are comparatively low-cost, they are not well run and are often closed at short notice. We want to register the children in a private school with a good reputation. Education is the route to a better future and that is what we want to give the children.”
Rosa is appealing for readers to put Angel’s Orphanage on your Christmas gift list. Your ‘gift’ (donation) will not just be for Christmas, but for life, she says.
• attend The Friends of Angel’s Orphanage Craft Fair on 5 December in the Council Rooms, Highworth;
• go to the Artsite Gallery, Theatre Square, Swindon until 23 December to see paintings by Angel’s children and local artists;
• send a cheque to Friends of Angel’s Orphanage to Rosa Matheson, 28 The Willows, Highworth, SN6 7PG.
Pictured: Ian and Rosa Matheson with Ben Wallace at the Boudha Stupa in Kathmandu