Ex-Gurkha is Council’s new mace bearer

Gyranraj Rai, a former Gurkha Sergeant Major, became Reading’s first Napalese mace bearer on Tuesday.  My fellow councillors and I gave Mr Rai a warm welcome.  His father was elected vice-chairman in the Nepalese parliament so it is an honour to have Mr Rai as Reading’s mace bearer.

Earlier this month the local Conservative/Lib Dem administration announced £45,000 worth of funding towards supporting the town’s growing Nepalese community.  This money will be used on three linked projects which together will help to establish a community-led system of support for individuals recently arrived in the UK, and which will eventually help the Nepalese Community to help themselves.

Under the proposal, £25,000 would be passed to the Reading & District Citizens Advice Bureau to provide a series of information sessions in East Reading for Nepalese migrants. Individual advice appointments could be made where necessary and advice materials would be provided in Nepali.

The same pot of money will help fund a Community Advisors training programme, open to young members of the Nepalese Community aged 18 to 30, so that in the future the community can provide help and advice to newcomers themselves. A ‘community coaching’ programme would also be set up aimed at supporting and empowering Nepalese women who would then become community coaches in their own right.

A total of £16,100 will be directed towards Reading Voluntary Action to create the new post of Development Worker for the Nepalese Community. The worker will ensure community members are accessing services and help already available to them and also provide help with things like form filling and taking on an advocacy role with individuals where necessary.

The proposal is also for £3,900 to go directly to the Greater Reading Nepalese Community Association (GRNCA) to rent office space which will enable them establish a local base in East Reading. This could then used by the development worker and local volunteers to provide a focal point for the community, and to access the services they need and to provide a small meeting place.

I am very pleased with this good news, particularly as I spend a lot of time supporting the Nepalese community in my Ward.  As an immigrant myself when just a boy, I know how important it is to integrate with the community and learn to support yourself.  My wife and I have brought up our children to respect our Pakistani origins and also the British way of life.  I am very proud that they went further with their education than I did and now all have jobs.

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