Cuppa with Navin Gurung

February 6, 2013 , by Bibek Bhandari, Leave your thoughts
Cuppa with Navin Gurung » My Dreams Mag
“I want to make myself recognise through my social work.”

Name: Navin Gurung
Social Entrepreneur
Founder, Sahara UK


Photo: Nilesh Singh

Navin Gurung boasts a prolific portfolio. From sports and music to travel and hospitality, the 48-year-old’s initiatives could inspire a generation.

Gurung, who landed in the United Kingdom in 1988, is a familiar name in the Nepalese Diaspora. Mostly known for Sahara UK, a philanthropic project that uses football as a tool for youth empowerment in Nepal and the UK, Gurung identifies himself as a “social entrepreneur.”

The DREAMS team caught up with Gurung at his restaurant in Buckinghamshire to find more about his work and what he wishes to do next.


DREAMS: Though you have multiple interests, you have always been proactive in sports. Why sports?

GURUNG: I was always interested in organising sports since when I was in Nepal. I organised a national volleyball tournament right after my SLC and then later formed a cricket club in 1987.

After coming to the UK in 1988, I was involved with the Yeti Association UK, the first Nepali club formed when late King Birendra came to study at Eton. I used to organise table tennis and badminton then.

I just like sports, and football in particular. I think we really have good players and also potential to make an international impact. I just want to identify these talents and help them get a break in national and international leagues.

Is that why you established Sahara UK?

Yes, but it has its own story.

When I went to Nepal in early 2000, I came to know about Sahara Cup. It was a local football tournament run by young people. I was impressed by what they were doing and really wanted to help.

When I made another trip to Nepal with some of my British friends in 2003, Siobhan Fryer, one of my friends, was struck by the poverty there. She was also touched by the efforts of Sahara Club in Nepal.

After returning to the UK, we decided to help them. But unfortunately she died that very year. But I decided to take our plan forward, and her family was happy to support too.

So we started Sahara in the UK and registered it as Pokhara Academy Children Trust  (PACT) that would help the children who are interested in football.

It basically started as a charity, but now we’re expanding.


Can you elaborate a little about what Sahara UK and PACT is doing?

The initial idea was to help street kids interested in football. So we housed 20 orphans and then trained and educated them.

We also helped Sahara Club in Nepal to organise the Aaha Gold Cup, which is one of the largest and most known football leagues in the country today.

During the years we have raised £55,000 for Sahara Nepal through the Nepali and British Gurkha community in the UK. We got to get an additional £20,000 from the UK Rotary.

We are using this money to make a stadium. It’s a Rs. 15 million project. We are also coming up with the Sahara Village, which will house the young footballers, train them and make them capable.

In the UK too, we are doing the same—identifying young Nepali players, training them and also giving them a platform to perform and showcase their skills.

My aim is to send Nepali footballers from the UK to Nepal so they can pass their knowledge and also learn. We will also work to prepare our players in Nepal for national leagues and for the national team.

I’m so thrilled when people attach my name with Sahara.


What is your motivation behind all these projects, especially Sahara?

When I came to the UK, there was no one to give me an opportunity. But from where I stand today, I can do something—I want to give that opportunity to the young people here and in Nepal.

There are so many hidden talents. Our responsibility is to find them and give them a break.

We have to motivate and fuel the players’ passion. We have to bring forward new young players who are dedicated and passionate so that they serve as a role model for the community.


So are there any role models for today’s youth?

Most of them are still trying. I am not sure about a role model in general. But if you look at individual fields such as music, fashion or sports, I think there are people who have proved themselves and are icons in their respective field. I think they are inspiring the young generation.


You have been working with the youth for a long time now, and many of them look up to you. Do you have any message for young Nepalese who are striving to realise their goals in the UK?

The most important point that young people here should realise is that they are in the land of opportunities. If you try hard, you will definitely get the results.

What I would tell them is to bring out their talent, showcase them and they’ll definitely get some support and also recognition.

Also, parents and the community have a great hand in making them successful. So they should encourage young people to follow their passion.

The future is bright.

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