When the pandemic first hit, Sujan Katuwal was tempted to close down the Nepalese restaurant that he had been running for more than 10 years.
But his wife, Bandana, suggested that they keep Panas Gurkha open to help the community and hospitals.
“She said why don’t we give back to the community before we run away,” said Katuwal.
With Bandana off work due to the pandemic the couple collectively put all of their energy into helping the community.
Since then, they haven’t looked back and have now delivered over 100,000 meals to people in need, including hospital staff, community centres, homeless projects, care homes and armed forces helping out at vaccination centres.
The Queen’s Award
Katuwal first moved to the UK 19 years ago as a student before settling down in Lewisham with his wife and opening Panas Gurka.
The restaurant has achieved much success in its own right, winning many awards for its Nepalese cuisine such as the 2019 Curry Awards.
They now have a new award under their belt for their amazing acts of kindness during the pandemic, having received the Queen’s Award for voluntary service in June 2020.
“We are just local people, helping the local community,” said Katuwal.
Being a Nepalese native, Katuwal says giving back to the community is part of his culture and was something he witnessed from his parents growing up.
Hot meals for frontline workers
Margarita Vidiella from the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust told the BBC on March 10:
“A lot of the time they [Frontline NHS workers] don’t have the time to have a hot meal so to have that delicious curry delivered by the community has been fantastic, so we are really grateful to Sujan.”
Katuwal has been blown away by the support and generosity of the community. The mission has now raised almost £30,000 on go fund me.
“So many people have asked to come and help and come to support us. The pandemic has really brought the community closer together.
“In Lewisham, there is so much that people have done and so much charity work throughout the pandemic, it’s really amazing.
“Every day they ask me how I am doing and if I need help.”
Katuwal remains adamant that without the support of his staff and customers none of this would have been possible.
“It’s my staff who have helped me. I can’t thank them enough and also to all of my customers who have been supporting our efforts… who have always stood by me and reached out.”
‘We never thought we would come this far‘
So, after surpassing their target of delivering over 100,000 meals, what’s next for the impressive duo?
Katuwal shows no signs of slowing down and is adamant that both he and his wife will continue to help the community “for many years to come”.
He has since registered the charity Panas Helping Hands and insists: “I want to carry on this thing, I want to carry on helping the community.
“Joanna Lumley is a patron of my charity, which is something beyond my dreams.”
Katuwal’s courageous efforts caught the attention of critically acclaimed actress Joanna Lumley who has since become a patron of his charity.
She told ITV: “This was just such an excellent example of community spirit that I think was fabulous, it has woven the community of south London together.”
“I’m very proud to be his friend and support.”
‘I need help’
Even as we spoke, Katuwal was busy preparing for a night helping others at the Woolwich army barracks, delivering meals to the soldiers that have been helping out at the local centres with the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.
Despite all of the success in his charity work, Katuwal says that it is a very hard time for small family-run businesses. He’s now calling for the support of the community.
“I need help from people, I need help from the local community.”
The restaurant is set to reopen to the public on May 15 but is available now for both collection and delivery. Visit their website here.