It was only supposed to be a trekking holiday. But as soon as they saw the rundown little children’s home in Nepal, Market Harborough couple Charles and Anne Barton knew they wanted to give more to the beautiful country than just their holiday money.
Now, 16 years after that initial trip, the couple are part of a small group of trustees in England and France who have created a charity that built and runs the Hope Centre near Nepali capital Kathmandu.
The Centre is currently home to 25 children from difficult backgrounds; many orphaned or disabled.
Recent newcomers include two sisters orphaned by a major earthquake in Nepal in 2015.
Charles said: “Back in 2002, a group of us met 10 children in a dilapidated rented house, about to be made homeless.
“We also saw first-hand the almost impossible challenges the disabled, abandoned and/or orphaned children faced in achieving an independent life.
“We made a decision, with other trekkers, to help those 10 children and set up a new charity.”
Since then, the charity - New Futures Nepal - has built a new Centre eight kilometres from Kathmandu, and a total of 54 children have so far benefited from the charity’s care.
Charles said: “We decided to provide everything that would give these children a chance in life.
“This included schooling, medical and surgical help, transportation, food and clothing costs. We also support the salaries of eight staff who work at the Hope Centre,”
The charity has to raise about £65,000 a year.
Nepal, located between China and India, has a population of almost 30 million, speaking 50 different languages. One in four people live below the poverty line. There are few roads and homes are often very basic.
Charles and Anne have been out to Nepal themselves many times, to see the Centre and its children.
Anne said: “In the meantime we’ve watched the original 10 Hope Centre children leave the Centre and find jobs..
“It’s been like watching your own children grow up.”
“Hope Centre “leavers” include two qualified nurses, two engineers , a health clinic manager, a pharmacy assistant, a private tutor, a worker in tourism and a worker in hotel management.
The tenth completed a diploma in computer engineering but died from a serious lung and heart condition at 25.
Both Charles and Anne spent time with him just before he died.
“It is the hands-on, personal approach that has been at the heart of our 16 year journey” said Charles.
The Hope Centre’s Nepali director Tilak Shrestha was in Market Harborough this month, on his first trip outside Nepal or northern India.
He took part in an event aimed at telling more people about the work of New Futures Nepal.
“It was my dream to come here, because 50 children in my country have got a good life because of the kind-hearted people here” Tilak told the Mail. “The people here who help us, are for us like a God.
As for the children at the Centre, they are profoundly grateful for the help of New Futures Nepal and its handful of trustees including the Bartons.
The charity’s annual report quotes one, Urmila, who said: “I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart for your great support and love and keeping faith to us.”