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Flags for Nepal – Pam’s Story 

Pam Rafferty has been working in Nepal to help build and rebuild communities since long before the recent earthquakes devastated the country and brought the plight of the Nepalese to the world’s attention. She set up Help Rural Nepal in 2009 with the aim of providing better health and education to a community in the Dhading district of Nepal – west of Kathmandu.

During the earthquakes most of the work that Pam’s charity funded was destroyed but she has been working with a local NGO to provide immediate aid and she plans to raise new funds to start again on Help Rural Nepal’s health and education projects.

Shambala Festival and Help Rural Nepal developed a campaign, Flags for Nepal, to raise funds to help with the continuing need for aid and the colossal task of reconstruction. We asked Shambalans to sponsor a string of Buddhist Prayer Flags —Shambala purchased the total amount of sponsored flags from Nepal and used them to decorate the Shambala Stage as a symbol of our support, hopes and prayers for the people of Nepal. We donated £2,000 to start the campaign and covered the costs of buying, transporting and flying the flags, so that all of your sponsorship money went directly to Help Rural Nepal.

Your generosity raised over £7,000 for Help Rural Nepal through Flags for Nepal. Thank you Shambalans, you are truly good eggs.

Here Pam tells us more about the project and her experiences of setting up and running a small, independent charity.

Q: How did you come to set up Help Rural Nepal?

A: I had nursed for many years and was coming up to retirement, my kids were independent and I was foot loose and fancy free! I had always wanted to do some volunteering work and to stay in a country longer than the usual two-week holiday. After a series of coincidences I ended up working at a children’s home in darkest Kathmandu. I planned to stay for two months, but it ended up being four months — and my love affair with Nepal began.

Then a Nepali friend, Shital Dharel, asked me if I would like to join his NGO, supporting a remote village community. After visiting the village, meeting his family and visiting the local village school, I agreed. Two months later Shital called me to say that the village school had been destroyed in a landslide. I found myself promising him that we would build the village a new school. So, with help from my sister Catherine and friend Felicity, Help Rural Nepal was born.

Q: How do you find the drive to work without the infrastructure and support that larger charities have?

A: I live in Nepal for 5 months every year and work closely with Shital and the village community. Just being there is drive enough. Working on our own gives us the freedom to work on individual needs and projects quickly and efficiently without lots of red tape and meetings.

Q: How have the recent earthquakes affected your work?

Our work is even more important now and we are determined to help everyone rebuild their lives. During the last 7 years we have got to know many people and families in the area, so it more than just rebuilding schools — it is helping a whole community of friends and family. We know we can do it and we will do it and maybe better than before.

Q: How important is it to sacrifice some of your time for the benefit of others?

A: For me it is so important. Whatever we have, someone else has less and our time costs nothing. We should all be helping our neighbours both near and far in some small way. It has been wonderful to see the volunteering work that the Nepali people do to improve their own society.

Q: Can one person really make a difference?

A: Yes — but it is much more fun and rewarding to share the highs and lows with others.


Pam’s advice to someone who wants to support a cause or start a charitable campaign:

  • Find a group/NGO/charity that already is working in a similar field and offer to volunteer, either by fundraising at home or visiting the projects.
  • Find a local trustworthy person who can help you organise things and guide you though the ways and customs of your chosen country.
  • Do everything in small steps —none of us can save the world but we can all do something small.
  • Don’t try to reinvent the wheel — someone has always done it before you so take advice and do your research.
  • Make sure that what you want to do to help is what they want help with — ask and listen. So often what we think is important is not at all important to others.
  • Remember that everyone has their pride — to share funding with a community project is far better than giving everything — it gives a real sense of ownership.
  • Plan an exit.