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Arran artist Gordon Davidson who helped to set up a charity in Nepal and established and nurtured a halfway house, known as Arran House, has reluctantly handed over the reins to a Nepalese team who will continue with the work.
Having fundraised endlessly and making regular visits to Nepal with long hours invested into making sure that it can continue and work towards becoming self-sustainable, the endeavour finally reached the stage where, as he had always been planned, he has relinquished responsibility and passes it on to its new custodians.
The journey has been a long one, starting in 2010 when Gordon was taken to Nepal to produce an exhibition for the Nepalese government. At the resulting exhibition he joined forces with two retiring Gurkha officers to form Kalaa Jyoti, a project to take art to poor and disadvantaged children across Nepal. In 2015 following the earthquake Arran House was set up to help poor children to get their year 11 and 12 in a good college. The project became an official charity in 2016.
Gordon has just returned from his ninth expedition to Nepal for Kalaa Jyoti. For the first two weeks he was working with the Early Morning Art Club in the Himalaya Boarding School which runs from 7.30am to 8.45am before school starts. Then in the afternoon it was a local bus down into Kathmandu with Dawa and Finjo from Arran House to paint a professional mural in the Bishwonath Hotel in central Kathmandu. The hotel owner has been a great supporter of the project and pays the boys Nepali rates for the work they do – over the past few years the Arran House boys have painted five murals in the hotel.
During the third week in Nepal Gordon headed off on a local bus for five hours far into the region of Sindhapalchok. After eating in a small town he was taken in a four-wheeled drive vehicle far up into the mountains to a tiny village called Singerche. It was 20km from the Chinese border. The village was totally destroyed by the 2015 earthquake and is still recovering. A new school was being built by a joint Gurkha and German educational foundation but in the meantime school was a pile of very small tin huts too small for Gordon to stand up in. The children had never done any art before so it was all a new experience and an exiting adventure. Everyone was helping to rebuild the village. Gordon, as a valued visitor, was put up in the best room in the village, which was really basic. Breakfast depended on whether the chicken had laid one or two eggs in the morning, along with a stainless beaker of warm buffalo milk. Every meal was rice with vegetables right out of the ground, it was basic but typical of what is eaten up in the mountains.
Gordon said: ‘I’ve been to some very poor communities on my visits to Nepal but this was the poorest by far. However, everyone was just getting on with trying to rebuild their village and the view down into the valley far below was spectacular, as were the many beautiful waterfalls all around the village. They looked as if they’d come out of a Jurassic Park movie.’
Gordon then headed off to Pokhara where he worked with the children from the remote region of Mustang for the fifth year running. Gordon affectionately calls these kids his Mustang Monkeys. This gave him the chance to check up on the progress of the first girl in the Arran House setup. Aakriti is studying nursing in Pokhara and stays with her grandmother near her college and the educational costs are paid for by the Kalaa Jyoti charity. At Pokhara Gordon also got the chance to work with a youngster called Ngawang. Last summer Ngawang’s painting of a monkey sold at the Arran Distillery exhibition, in a silent auction, for £52. His household decided he should get this money as they have secured his educational costs with several donors. Ngawang was so amazed to have so much money and has sage plans on how to spend it wisely.
One of the main aims of Kalaa Jyoti was to make it a Nepali project, run by Nepali for Nepali. Over the past two years Ramuna Pun took over Gordon’s photography duties and last year her friends in Kathmandu started doing all the filming. In December Bhim Chantal will take over all the art projects set up by Gordon. Deepak and Bishnu have taken over the running of Arran House which this year has secured funding for the next two years thanks to a massive fundraising effort by the ladies of the Arran Crafts and Company who helped secure two massive cheques for £1000 which were donated along with several £100 donations.
On Sunday October 28, while in Nepal, Gordon handed over the reigns to the Nepali team and walked away from Arran House for the last time. Within three days he had received offers for him to continue his art work with poor children in Peru, Ethiopia and Cambodia. And a revolt had taken place in the Mustang hostel when they discovered he wasn’t coming back. The Himalaya School also sent a teacher to say he had to come back.
Gordon said: ‘The Mustang Monkeys decided that they would form a new organisation. Ngawang came up with the idea of a world badge like the United Nations, and he showed me how to write our new name in Tibetan. ‘Outlook’ was a word they liked from their computer.
‘So basically Outlook is me with a suitcase of pens and paints going round the world showing poor communities how to paint. I wont have the Gurkhas as my own personal superman coming to my aid when I’m in trouble, but I do have the Tibetan kids in my corner – and you don’t want to mess with a Mustang Monkey!’
With the seamless change from handing over Kalaa Jyoti to the young Nepalese crew who will carry on the good work, Gordon will now become a self-confessed ‘wandering artist with a bag full of art materials’. He will continue to raise money by selling artworks and equipment at Christmas fairs around the island to fund his travels to remote regions of the world to teach children art and to provide assistance in whatever way he can for those less fortunate.
Gordon and Aakriti who is studying nursing in Pokhara with assistance from Kalaa Jyoti. No_B52Kalaa01
Gordon joins some of the residents of Arran House on a day out to Nagarkot. No_B52Kalaa02
Pupils outside the Himalaya Boarding School. No_B52Kalaa03
Ngawang works on some artwork. No_B52Kalaa04
Nirjala with one of her paintings. No_B52Kalaa05
The scenic surroundings of Pokhara. No_B52Kalaa06
The school at Singerche village. No_B52Kalaa07
Pupils at Singerche School enjoy their very first art lesson. No_B52Kalaa08
Singerche School pupils accompany Gordon on his walk out of the village to say farewell. No_B52Kalaa09
Pupils show off the results of their very first art lesson. No_B52Kalaa10
Singerche girlfriends show off their artwork. No_B52Kalaa11
Evidence of the 2015 earthquake is still visible in Singerche with landslides still taking place three years later. No_B52Kalaa12