Nepal

#GreaterLondoner: Jean, 85, and Joan, 78

BBC London

Jean and Joan
BBC

When I lost my husband and retired, I didn’t know many people in the local area.

So I started volunteering and I met Jean.

We’ve been volunteering for around four years at the Nepalese Gurkha Veterans Community.

The first time we went there, nobody spoke English.

There were two tribes which stayed on different sides of the hall and didn’t speak.

Apparently it’s their tradition to not talk to each other.

But we soon sussed that out and got them all together.

It was shyness mainly. But now you can’t tell the difference.

They’re all wives or widows of the Nepalese soldiers called Gurkhas.

Their husbands were in the British battalion who were awarded many Victoria Crosses.

We teach them cooking, arts and crafts, English, floristry.

We make the sandwiches and teas and clean up afterwards.

The main thing is to talk to the ladies because they’re desperately trying to learn English.

We ask them about their children and what their home was like.

I love learning about their way of life and actually our cultures aren’t very different at all.

They’re all my friends.

They kept calling us ‘diddy’. We thought it’s because we’re not very tall, but apparently it means ‘sister’.

One day, they presented us with their special scarves.I don’t understand why, but it’s of great significance to them.

They always get us mixed up.

We’re Jean and Joan, and we always have the answer to anything.

Jean Kemp, 85, & Joan Bartram, 78, Greenwich

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