When Leander Hollings first volunteered to help at an orphanage in Nepal three years ago, she embarked on a mission that would see her change the lives of scores of children beset by poverty. At the time, Leander was 27 years old and living in London.

She had a nice flat, and a well-paid job with everything she could have wished for – yet there was something missing. A slight medical condition, brought on by stress, prompted Leander into taking some time out from her busy schedule.

So with no great aim in mind other than to do something useful with her life, she placed an advert on a goodwill website offering to carry out some volunteer work with children.

Within days she was asked to buy a few items from women in Nepal who were working round the clock to sell their goods for very little profit in return.

But Leander went one step further. She held a party and raised over £1,000 for the cause. Such was her dedication that when a friend suggested she fly out to the Himalayas to help children in a Nepalese orphanage, Leander took the suggestion seriously.

So seriously in fact, that she handed in her notice and booked a flight, intending to stay in Nepal only for a couple of months.

Three years down the line this inspiring young woman, who has lived in Ilkley for the past couple of years, has dedicated her life to helping orphans as well as adults who are fighting poverty and oppression in Nepal.

She said: “I was so touched by the children I met during my first visit there that I knew I had to help in any way I could.

“They had been given away by their parents and were being mistreated by the owners of the orphanage who had no interest in their wellbeing and I found it impossible to turn my back on them once I realised the truth.

“Nepal is beset with social problems and the children I met I later found out were being beaten and physically abused.

“They had very little in the way of food and possessions but despite that were always smiling and were really lovely children. On the day I arrived in Nepal they greeted me with smiles and flowers and were incredibly warm and loving.

“As I learnt more about their living conditions and their world I was able to see just how difficult life was for them and I wanted to help. So when one of the girls eventually confided in me that she was being beaten, I knew I couldn’t just walk away.”

Unsure of how she could help the orphans, Leander began visiting a cyber café in Kathmandu run by a young Nepalese man, Razoo.

She began to use his cyber café to encourage her friends and family back home to raise money to support the children of Nepal. Leander and Razoo soon became good friends with a shared interest in helping the orphans and set up an organisation which later became a registered charity, called Mysmallhelp.

Leander said: “Razoo was such a friend to me when I was out there and when I told him about the children I had been working with he immediately offered to help.

“He genuinely cares about children and wanted to meet them. He then offered to help me set up Mysmallhelp to raise money to support the orphans and help provide them with an education.”

At first Leander relied on the generosity of friends and family back home to provide support to the Nepalese children. But with Razoo’s help they set up www.mysmallhelp.org and the organisation soon became a success.

It now sponsors over 60 children in their education in Nepal. Over the years volunteers have provided school uniforms to children, text books and basic equipment.

They have also helped build toilet facilities and are currently working on a project to provide a renewable energy source to one school which will reduce fuel costs and in turn free up vital resources which can be ploughed back into the children's education.

Members also provide basic health care for children. Leander said: “MSH believes that providing education alone is not always enough.”

“Families often have more immediate needs that tend to overshadow a child’s education and force them out of school, so MSH conducts an initial interview with the parent/guardian of the child.

“After this assessment, MSH decides on a case-by-case basis if we can offer books, stationery, medicine, clothes etc. to help the family of the sponsored child.

“This alleviates immediate welfare concerns to enable the child to enter, and more importantly, remain in education. MSH monitors the attendance and progress of the children through direct relationships with teachers and schools, and also aims to go one step further by helping the sponsored children find a job upon completion of the school leaving certificate.”

In order to do this Leander has now set up a social enterprise scheme called Mysmallshop which sells fairly traded goods handmade by artisans in Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa and Indonesia. All profits are donated to the charity mysmallhelp.

“I wanted to make sure that once the children from the orphanages had completed their education there would be somewhere for them to work under decent conditions,.” she said.

“That’s what Mysmallshop is about. Any profits we make are put back into Mysmallhelp so the two in turn help each other. The woman who inspired the business had a jewellery workshop in Nepal and I was shocked at the story of her family business.

“She made very little profit at all although her staff did all the work. I began taking some of her jewellery back to the UK to sell it, with no experience in that field whatsoever but eventually I have managed to send over £6,000 back to her in Nepal. Mysmallshop aims to help people like this to earn a decent wage from their hard work.”

Mysmallshop (website mysmallshop.org) mainly trades in jewellery, blankets, scarves and children’s wear. Leander does her best to ensure that all goods sold are fairly traded. “At the moment I can’t guarantee that the silver and gems which are supplied to the women who make the jewellery in Nepal are fairly traded – that’s next on the list, to investigate how they are mined etc.

“But we try to ensure that the women who make the jewellery are given a fair wage, and I am now looking for a designer to provide new designs so that we can sell items of jewellery in more upmarket shops in order to get more money for them.

“Mysmallshop is vital to help ensure that the children we are helping to educate are not exploited in their adult lives and we are looking for all the support we can to make it a success,” said Leander.

So far she has held stalls at various events in the town, including Ilkley Carnival, The Clarke Foley Centre, Christ Church, The Happiness Centre, The Veggie Cafe, and Smooth cafe. Mysmallshop hosts fair trade parties and can provide stock for those wishing to hold a party of their own. But, as with any charity, Leander is always on the lookout for more helpers and sponsors.

She said: “Anyone who would like to get involved in any way is welcome. We are always in need of money and volunteers to keep the organisation going. We believe that the work we do is vital to ensure the basic human rights of these children are met.

“That has become my main mission in life and I want to continue helping poor children in whatever way I can. We are all part of the same world and I believe that a social enterprise scheme like Mysmallshop could provide a sustainable solution to relieve poverty in the developing world by creating jobs and demand in the West for products produced in Nepal and other poor countries.”

Due to the rapid growth and interest in the Mysmallhelp and Mysmallshop projects, Leander is in urgent need of more “my small helpers”. She is looking for talented and enthusiastic individuals to offer their time and skills to enable Mysmallhelp realise its full potential.

Leander said: “There is no cost involved in becoming a trustee/guarantor, we just ask that you let us know how much time you can realistically commit and how you feel your skills and knowledge can best be used.”

She is also looking for volunteers to help support the work of the Mysmallhelp through sales, marketing and PR, fundraising, accounts, book-keeping and budgeting, legal support and photography. Anyone interested should contact Leander by June 15. Possible new trustees will be interviewed before the middle of July.

Contact leander.hollings@mysmallshop.org or by telephone to 0771 726 3426.