Nepal Ireland Society 18th Anniversary Conference

The Nepal Ireland Society 18th Anniversary Conference took place on Sunday 17th  May 2020 (online)

Chief guest H.E. Dr. Durgar Bahadur Subedi, Nepal’s Ambassador to the UK and Ireland, delivered the key note address.

Irish President Michael D Higgins with the Nepal Ambassador to UK & Ireland, Dr Durga Bahadur Subedi. Celebrate Nepal Irish friendship, August 2018. Photo credit: A. Irwin

Mike Winterburn, chair of the board of Directors of Nepal Leprosy Trust Ireland, addressed the conference. Excerpt below:

‘Nepal Leprosy Trust is a Nepali NGO and was established in the 1970s to provide income generation projects and training for a significant number of leprosy affected families who at that time were living in isolation in Kokhana village in the Kathmandu valley.

Over time Nepal Leprosy Trust developed two sister organisations one in Ireland and the other in the UK with charity status and independent boards. These ‘sisters’ seek to support the work in Nepal through strategic planning, staff development and fund raising. Nepal Leprosy Trust Ireland joined the Nepal Ireland Society in 2010.

Nepal Leprosy Trust has developed a holistic vision to serve those that suffer from the effects of leprosy, their families and children. With leprosy, there are two components to the problem one medical and the other social.

Our work is seen in community-based rehabilitation, income generation, education and medical care. One particular aspect of our work that is distinctive is that we have an emphasis on stigma elimination. Stigmatisation can be seen frequently where leprosy is found. We seek to empower those affected by leprosy to overcome their self-stigma and additionally we work with local communities to help them overcome their own attitudes and practices that may stigmatise others.

Benefits of collaborations with the Nepal Ireland Society

The Nepal Leprosy Trust sees many benefits of collaborating with the Nepal Ireland Society in Ireland and in Nepal. Establishing a connection with the Ambassador in London has been a very positive experience for us. We are a very grass roots kind of organisation responding to the needs of those who may consider themselves on the edge of society, and so for us to represent the needs of such people directly at such a high level is wonderful.

We have immensely enjoyed the background work that has led to the establishment of the Parliamentary Friendship Group and wish it success as its momentum builds in both Ireland and Nepal. Connections through the Nepal Ireland Society made it possible to meet the EU Ambassador Veronica Cody a few years back.

Without the Nepal Ireland Society, the work of the Nepal Leprosy Trust would carry on but without the very positive connection with other NGOs. The society gives us an easy way to connect and form connections. Additionally, through the Society we are able to connect with health professionals, or other professionals, in Ireland and Nepal to further our own work and possibly assist them in theirs. Another enjoyable benefit is a way to connect with Nepali’s living in Ireland whether in Dublin, Limerick or elsewhere.

Outputs from collaboration

Tangible outputs from the collaboration between Nepal Leprosy Trust and the Society can be seen through the establishment of the Health Committee, of which I am the chair, and the publishing of the Nepal Health Handbook in 2019. This came at the suggestion of the ambassador and the booklet includes a summary of the health situation in Nepal, at that time, and a synopsis of the work of a large number of NGOs working in Nepal with a connection to Ireland. Contact for a copy of the handbook.

The terrible earthquake in 2015 saw a lot of activity with the Society organising fundraising and hosting a conference at Trinity College. Nepal Leprosy Trust and the Society undertook a significant amount of earthquake relief distribution at the time. Funds provided by the Society were distributed as basic food items and clothing by colleagues from Lalgadh hospital at Tauthali VDC, Sindhupalchowk.

The visit of the Irish Parliamentary Friendship group to Kathmandu in 2019 with the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, was a significant milestone. Nepal Leprosy Trust CEO, Mr Kamal Shrestha, was able to meet the Ceann Comhairle and explain our work to him.  Nepal Leprosy Trust would like to extend an invitation to the Friendship Group to visit Lalgadh hospital and see some of the Irish Aid funded projects at a future point when time allows.’