Banchory funeral firm's alternative to Christmas cards

BANCHORY funeral directors MacIntosh & Steven have decided to give the money they would usually spend on Christmas cards and gifts for their clients to help deprived youngsters in Nepal.

The funeral directors said they decided to give their Christmas expenses after being inspired by the fundraising efforts of local doctors Mike Steven and Sandy Rough.

David Pedelty, community manager at MacIntosh & Steven, said: "I originally heard of the doctors' fundraising activities from Helen MacGregor, our resident funeral services arranger at our Banchory branch and, of course, had read about their efforts to raise funds for the Helambu Project in the Piper.

"Having recently attended a talk given by Dr Mike Steven I was most impressed not just by the time and effort he had devoted to raising funds for this very worthwhile cause but also by the extreme modesty of the man who referred to himself as merely a 'co-ordinator'.

"Helen and I felt we had to make some effort to add to the funds already raised by the community of Banchory and surrounding Deeside. At this time of year MacIntosh & Steven usually send out Christmas cards, diaries and other such gifts to local ministers and other businesses that we are in constant contact with throughout the year. We realised that the money spent on these presents could and should be put to better use and are therefore delighted to present Mike with a cheque for 200 to put towards the Helambu Project.

"This does of course also mean that we have to make another presentation – that being to present an apology to all those who will not be receiving Christmas cards from us this year. Please blame Mike and Sandy!"

Helambu Project co-ordinator Dr Mike Steven, who has been raising money since witnessing the harsh living conditions endured by locals in the Nepalese district during the filming of BBC2's Extreme Dreams, thanked the funeral directors for their kind gesture.

He said: "MacIntosh & Steven's decision to divert their Christmas expenses to the Helambu Project represents a further example of the kindness and generosity of the Banchory community during the course of the last year.

"What started off in January as an idea by Sandy Rough to raise money by cycling to Paris has in turn mushroomed into something much bigger with people and groups from Deeside, of all ages and walks of life, stepping up to become involved.

"As a result, our initial target of a few thousand pounds has multiplied to over 20,000 during the course of the year. This means that the construction of a boarding school, which will have over 90 pupils, has started a year ahead of schedule in September with the hope of completion in the summer of 2009. The additional funding has been used to furnish the classrooms and dormitories, with some being held in reserve to fund the teachers' salaries over the next few years. Any extra funding is being used to support the development of a local medical clinic."

The 30 Sherpas that are building the school over winter received a welcome Christmas present from the pupils of Banchory Primary School recently. Not only has the school gifted seven yaks to help with the labouring in the months ahead but the additional funds from the sale of the school calendar have helped provide them with warm jackets and hats over the harsh winter months.

The 2009 school calendars are available for sale at Banchory Primary School and Banchory Surgery for just 4 each.