A VETERAN who has taken the Gurkhas of the British Army to heart is closing in on £50,000 of funds raised in aid of them.

In little over a decade, Arnold Sanderson has helped build a school in Nepal and raised thousands of pounds for the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

The 86-year-old, from Spennymoor, has long appreciated the Brigade of Gurkhas’ role and respected the individual soldiers who serve with it.

He said: “I have so much time for them, they are lovely people and it is a pleasure to do something to help.

“The money I raise helps make their lives a bit easier and better, they have no national health or pensions and for 200 years they haven’t exactly been treated 100 per cent so I’m thrilled to have been able to help.”

Mr Sanderson’s connection with the Gurkhas dates back to 2005.

The retired builder used to sell his handcrafted walking sticks at Richmond Market Hall, where he met a Gurkha officer stationed at nearby Catterick Garrison.

The more he got to know Colour Sergeant Jai Bahadua Dura Gurung and of the hardship faced by retired Gurkhas and families in Nepal the more he wanted to help.

From 2008 to 2012, Mr Sanderson helped raise money to build the Friends Academy School in Jai’s home region of Lamjung and ongoing efforts range from donations in lieu of birthday gifts to supermarket collections.

Last week he raised £560 at Asda Spennymoor and £450 at Morrisons in Bishop Auckland to top £48,000. He hopes to reach £50,000 by the end of this summer.

Mr Sanderson, who served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, said: “People are so generous, I'm very grateful for everyone’s support for the cause.“Last week a lady came on behalf of her 92-year-old father and gave a £50 note which is incredible and means so much.”

In return for Mr Sanderson’s support, Gurkha soldiers have joined the Remembrance service at Spennymoor, of which he is parade marshal.

Catterick-based Corporal Bishal Gurung and Corporal Santosh Shrestha joined Mr Sanderson and volunteers Bill Foster and Adam Gray last week.

Cpl Gurung said: “We are pleased, really happy to be part of this collection. What they have done has a massive effect back in Nepal, communities benefit from the charity’s support.

"I would like to massively thank Mr Sanderson on behalf of the Gurkha community here and all of the retired personnel back in Nepal for his hard work.”