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The Gurkha Welfare Appeal (Canada) was a government registered charitable organization in operation between 1973 and 2004. GWA(C) was the Canadian branch of Gurkha Welfare Trust, based in the United Kingdom. These organizations, with the Gurkha Welfare Trust (USA) and the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association (KAAA), constituted the international Gurkha Welfare Scheme (GWS).
The Gurkha Welfare Trust was established to provide for the welfare of retired Gurkha soldiers and their dependents living in poverty in Nepal. Gurkha soldiers, recruited in the hills of Nepal, have served the British Crown since 1815. The Gurkha brigades participated in both World Wars and countless military conflicts of the past two centuries and have been highly celebrated for their heroism and bravery.
GWA(C), which officially launched in January 1973, reoriented the aims of the international trust by helping not only the ex-servicemen and their families but also the broader communities in which the Gurkhas lived. The charity directed funds to improve the quality of life in the hill communities of Nepal. GWA(C) was funded by the Canadian Educational Development and Relief (CEDAR) programme of the Canadian International Development Administration (CIDA) between 1975 and 1989, and by private donations.
Between June 1975 and August 1989, GWA(C) built the following development projects in Nepal: 131 drinking water supply schemes; six suspension bridges; three irrigation canals; 22 outreach centres (or Area Welfare Centres), where ex-servicemen submitted applications for assistance and received pensions and primary medical care; 22 schools and hostel buildings; an ex-servicemen rest house; and the Dharan school for blind children, completed in 1998. The GWA(C) also contributed to the international relief effort following the 1988 earthquake in Nepal.
The CEDAR programme closed on 1 July 1989 due to lack of funding. Afterwards, only a small project office was retained to perform repair, maintenance, and improvements of the Area Welfare Centres (AWCs) in Nepal. For example, small improvements to the AWCs, such as building covered walkways, office extensions, and pension shelters, were completed during this period. GWA(C) ceased operations in Nepal in March 2003 and officially closed in 2004. Since then, the Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom) assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the AWCs.
Maj. Michael Burke (1925-2004) was the Secretary for the GWA(C) from its inception until his death. Born in Karachi, present-day Pakistan, Maj. Burke studied at the St. Lawrence School in Sanawar, India. He was an officer with the 4th Gurkhas and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He immigrated to Canada in 1958 and taught in the Metropolitan Separate School Board until his retirement in 1991. In recognition of his efforts for the GWA(C), he received the M.B.E. from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in June 1983. Following his death in 2004, Maj. Burke’s widow, Carol Burke, and Bill Smith were appointed joint Secretaries of GWA(C) and oversaw its closing.