​Local Charity Worker and Rotary Clubs team up to help rural Nepal

Nepal visit 2019 Okhle Village Trust, Portland and Casterbridge Rotary members and the water projects undertaken

Local Charity Worker and Rotary Clubs team up to help rural Nepal

Richard Backwell from Sutton Poyntz, working with both Portland and Casterbridge Dorchester Rotary Clubs have been funding water supply systems for villages in Nepal, where water is scarce.  Richard formed the Okhle Village Trust in 2002 after a trek with Rotarian Mark Townsend.  Their Nepali guide was Bimal Gurung, who came from a village called Okhle. It was his description of the water supply problems in his village, that made Richard decide to help.  The success of this scheme spread to surrounding villages, and over 20 years the Okhle Trust and Rotary have been helping to fund the construction of many storage tanks, pumping systems and village taps. The Queen awarded 81-year-old Richard an MBE for this Nepal work, in 2007. The village water projects continue, the aim is to enable villagers in this area of central Nepal to share one tap approximately with 7 houses. The water systems are funded by the Okhle Village Trust and Rotary, the Nepalese undertake the construction work, and annual inspection visits are funded entirely by Rotarians and friends themselves. No donations are used for travel, accommodation or expenses. 

Richard and Mark have just returned from their annual visit to Nepal along with a group of 15 Rotarians and friends from Portland and Dorchester. They visited villages to check on completed water supply projects, to open new ones and plan future projects to prevent children having to fetch water before they go to school.

The water projects also ensure a healthy piped supply providing clean drinking water, as well as water for washing, for flushing toilets and water for hand washing after using toilets.

Over the years more than £150,000 has been raised for 30 water projects in Okhle and the surrounding villages have been undertaken. The 2015 Nepal earthquake epicentre was close to the Okhle villages and caused substantial damage, the Trust and Rotary rebuilt more than a dozen houses and a school with generous donations and funds raised from Portland, Dorchester and Weymouth. 


This village has two springs below the village. One is about 30 metres below which only has water for the 4 months of the monsoon season and another 75 metre below which is an all year-round supply. The villagers used to have to walk down to the spring, load 20 - 30 litres on their back and climb up 75 m to the lower houses and 115 m to those above the track through the village. A climb equivalent to a 30-storey building! The solution was to build a collection chamber at the spring, so that the water is uncontaminated, a 5000L tank at the same level with an electric pump to lift the water to a large 25000L storage tank above the village. From there pipes are led downhill to gravity feed 5 taps (each tap to supply seven houses). Washing clothes and personal cleanliness will occur at the taps and water will be carried to the house for drinking and cooking. Electricity supply was required to be brought down to the tank with the pump and a small building to house the electrics. The cost of this was £7150 and the amount was achieved by fundraising in the local communities by the OVT and Rotary Clubs plus the help of a small grant from Rotary District.

Mark Townsend said “It was a true delight to see the project completed and the water flowing. This has transformed the lives of the villages by giving them a clean supply and having taps close to their door avoiding nearly an hour round trip several times a day”.


Marigold garlands and celebrations at Gorkhalichap, another village water system opened at a ceremony at a tap by Richard Brind, Mark Townsend and Richard Backwell

Samjur School

Richard Backwell at Samjur School which we rebuilt after the earthquake, here jumpers for the students were donated by the WI in Portland, transported by the Rotary group.

Our project for next year is to build a new water tank for the village of Samjur and also bring a supply to the school and build a new toilet for the children

Mardi Himal Trek

And finally, at the end of the Okhle village visits, the Rotary and friends group trekked into the Annapurna region, with the help of porters, marking the end of 3 amazing, memorable weeks in Nepal. 


Okhle is in Central Nepal, a six-hour journey on tarmac from Kathmandu then a further three hours on unmade up roads into the hills. The village is above the Terai (lowlands) to the south but below the Himalayas to the north. The elevation of Okhle and the surrounding villages ranges from 1000m to 1800m

Although Nepal has a high annual rainfall of 1500 mm, most falls in the Monsoon Season, June to September. Villages collect water in storage tanks during this period for use all the year round.

Some villages have no storage facility. Some have concrete tanks that are cracked, leak and are too small. Often at the water source – usually a natural spring – there is no collection chamber resulting in contaminated water. Pipe runs from the source to storage tank and taps in the villages are in a poor condition and leak. Many villages may have only one tap. (A tap is a concrete structure with a water tap but with a base where locals wash clothes and themselves then carry drinking and cooking water to their houses.) 

During the monsoon season the water supply is plentiful, but during the dry season due to leaking tanks etc. there is very limited water available and villagers often must walk considerable distances for an alternative supply and carry every drop back to their homes.

The first project was Okhle village itself and that was to build a concrete collection chamber at the spring. New piping was brought to a new large concrete storage tank above the village and again new piping to new taps in the village itself. The aim to have one tap to serve six houses.

The tank fills during the monsoon. A trickle from the spring in the dry season along with careful use by the village means they have year-round supply.

A clean water supply on tap improves quality of life by not having to make trips that can take up to an hour to collect it, meaning that the farmers can go back to work in the fields and the children who are often pressed into service can go back to school. It also gives a healthy supply, reducing illness by having a clean supply for drinking, water for washing, water to flush toilets and water available for hand washing after using toilets.