After landing in Kathmandu airport at about 10:55 PM local time of November 15, 2015, Don Mebus and I approached the airport terminal to find a “Welcome to the Land where Lord Boudha was born.” We were greeted by District Secretary Chintamani, Assistant Governor MK Jha and District RI Convention Promotion Committee Chair PP Rtn. Yadav and presented beautiful scarves. After being escorted to a separate VIP reception area, we promptly cleared through customs and immigration and were driven to our hotel Annapurna.
A strange and unique feeling of being in a sacred place from touchdown of the plane.
We woke up to join the Rotary Club of Bagmati Kathmandu for their Weekly Regular Breakfast Meeting. It was amongst the 14 members that we heard of the Club’s projects with improvement of basic condition inside prisons of Nepal, the reconstruction of a Buddhist monastery, and work with the cancer society /hospital.
After breakfast we met Robert Rose, a member of the DAF Committee, who has been active with various groups in Nepal since the 1990’s. We delivered books in Braille that we had been shipped prior to the trip to bring over to him and Nirmala, his NGO’s Executive Director. This split the weight amongst three of us and eliminated cost of shipping.
Joining District Governor (DG) Keshav and PDG Tirtha Man, we traveled the streets of Kathmandu, to a community outside the bustling city center- We were greeted by Mannish, the President of the Rotary Club of Tripureshwor and other members of the Club and examined some of the devastation caused by the earthquake of April 25 and the major aftershock of May 12. Over 9000 lives were lost throughout the country. Over 600,000 homes were totally destroyed, and another 300,000 made uninhabitable. More deaths would have occurred had the 56 second 7.8 earthquake not occurred 4 minutes short of noon on a Saturday- a point where most had completed their meals and were outside, and coupled with schools, business and government offices being closed.
Over 100 temporary shelters of curved corrugated tin sheeting had been donated by the Club in conjunction with a Delhi club and another NGO. Earthquake damage could be seen across the area which housed over 9,000 people. We visited a house which had been constructed and was similar to the proposed model for the 1000 new homes to be built by Rotary District with a living room, two spacious bedrooms and a bathroom. Next we visited a school with 500 students at secondary level. It too had significant earthquake damage.
Leaving our first project site we traveled back in this city of about 5 million people to explore the world heritage site of the Boudhanath Stupa- the damage was dramatic but appeared that it was capable of repair- a moving experience to see.
Lunch followed at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the area. All of this time we are being educated on the country, it’s politics and the issues they are facing including about 2 months old undeclared blockade of the country by India causing shortages of fuel and other daily essentials, which has resulted in closure of schools, restaurants etc. This has further crippled Nepal’s economy which was already suffering from loss of tourism and business losses from the earthquake and it’s aftershocks. Petrol on the black market is approaching 400 rupees per liter, roughly $4 to the liter – about ten times pre blockade levels.
The day’s program closed with a visit to Nepal Orthopaedic Hospital. Another beautiful Rotary story. Rotary in the 1990’s built two one story buildings to house a hospital. The concept included the ability to use medical talent from Germany to staff these buildings.Merger of East and West Germany caused the German medical talent to be diverted to parts of the newly merged nation . The buildings sat empty for over two years, when a young surgeon-Dr Anil Shrestha agreed to accept the challenge. Over the past 16 years, the hospital has grown to three stories and over 100 beds. In 2014, there were “over 40000 OPD patients and 3500 interventions in the operating theatre. Charity was given to many patients and the charity amount jumped to Rs 60,000,000 in 2014.” This hospital is driven by Rotarians and led by Rotarian chiefs of staff. During the Earthquake aftermath, the staff was willing to forego salaries in order to meet the needs of their patients. Even though their structures had not suffered damage, they operated in makeshift facilities outside because their patients feared that structural damage had occurred and the building might collapse.
Day two was spent in beautiful old heritage city of Bhaktapur. President Shree Sanker Pradhananga, PP Om Krishna and other members from the Rotary Club of Bhaktapur guided us to a ninety year old school for approximately 700 students. We were taken down the middle of two rows of temporary classrooms- as we approached the one story walls of the school, we saw outside the photo images of the pre April two story school building. Dramatic!
Advancing to Bhaktapur Durbar Square, we immediately saw why EA Powell had penned comments on the world heritage site as-“ was there nothing else in Nepal, save Durbar Square of Bhaktapur, it would still be amply worth making a journey half way round the globe to see”. It’s beauty and heritage still shine and it remains a marvel. We encounter devastating blows throughout the main square. One temple has totally collapsed with just the base remaining. DG Keshav said- “it is like the stone head has had its nose shaved off”– Surrounding the area, archeologists from a British university are excavating in a confined area. The bulk of the temples , the palace of 55 windows, and the Golden Gate remain with poles leaning into the buildings to shore up walls in some places and missing brick in others . Magnificent wood and stone carving remain within the structures and beauty of the temples and palace cannot be denied.
We then travel the narrow streets to see pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of a densely populated area built centuries ago to be missing- filled with bricks in mounds. We gather in one small
area to join the RC Bhaktapur members in greeting 22 locals who were among the ninety families who lost their homes in about a four block area. Proudly the Club Secretary presided over the presentation of blankets and locks and keys to each symbolically turning over the temporary shelters to the smiling residents. This is where they had lived for decades- perhaps generations. They would not leave their prized piece of land. The shelters are of metal and each is just one room- but this is their home. Pride of ownership is clearly evident.
We then shift to a second cluster of nine temporary shelters built by the club for those who had been displaced. Once again the smiling faces of those cramped together into one room shelters hooked together in the three sides of a square with an open area in the middle for children to play, to do their cooking and wash- and next to the one outhouse used by all.
We returned to Durbar Square where we viewed its beautiful carved peacock window and said our goodbyes to the young ladies, who lead the interact Clubs and participate with the Rotaract Clubs in Rotary District 3292 Nepal- Bhutan.
Lunch was served at the beautiful and historic “Heritage Hotel” – a great meal ending with a tour of one it’s 25 guest rooms. Our host indicated that the restaurant had been hit by the fuel crisis (the meal was great) but this could not compare to the 90 per cent cancellations on rooms since the earthquake.
DG Keshav took us to Kathmandu Durbar Square , where we once again saw the majesty and art of the temples and palace while clearly seeing the the missing or crumpled brick or stone pieces together with some walls and tiers of roofs of temples with pole support.
The afternoon concluded with a meeting for the three out of the four members of the DAF with the Federation of Nepal Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI).
(Just a reminder that none of this trip or any subsequent trip comes from Rotary International or the DAF which is technically not an RI administered program.)
DOWN TO ROTARY DISCUSSION AND SPECIFICS-FNCCI
FNCCI is committed to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Rotary District 3292. They will construct in accordance with government regulation 140 schools at a rough cost of $20,000 US each. The basic design will have 5 classrooms, library and teachers rooms – total 7 rooms.
Rotary through the District Fund , through the South Asia Society for Development and Cooperation; through the Nepal Earthquake Donor Advised Fund and through Rotary Foundation Global Grants will, at an additional cost of $20,000 each, supply the soft expenses of desks and benches, blackboards, bookshelves for library and 3-5 computers and two restrooms for male and female.
The title – ownership- to the underlying ground must be clear. It is proposed that local Rotarians, Chamber of Commerce and School Committee be responsible to establish the base foundation under the supervision of an engineer assigned to each district-10 schools for each of the 14 geographic and politically defined districts worst affected of of the total 31 affected by the earthquake. This will encourage the development of both local pride of ownership and respect for their personal investment. To the extent possible, local material and labor should be utilised. This will assist in rebuilding the devastated economy as well as developing local support. Earthquake resistant technology, as now being promulgated by the government, must be incorporated in order to secure government approval of the design plan. Environmental “green technology” and materials should be utilised. This can create challenges: such as -using pre fabricated modular panels and windows which are not capable of being produced within the vicinity of the school- but still within the country(note that the government has imposed a twenty eight per cent minimum import tax and this is on top of the undeclared embargo of goods by India).
Significant progress has been achieved already. FNCCI representative Kush ,who is also a Rotarian and Past President of FNCCI, outlined that 10 donors have already stepped forward to cover the construction of the first 10 schools. FNCCI has reached out to part of the 8000 public and community schools damaged or destroyed. They have vetted and are continuing to vet through local Rotary Clubs, Chamber of Commerce, School Committees and government officials the names, profile and condition of schools with a hope to find the schools that meet the basic criteria of proper ownership of land and roughly 200 students. There is the additional concept of upgrading from the basic public school run by the government to a community school controlled by a community committee including a government advisor and member- these schools provide the opportunity for the communities to greatly expand the educational programs available beyond the provision of just government mandated programs.
Each school will have similar colors which will clearly identify the structures as Rotary/FNCCI. An interesting side note is the logo for FNCCI mirrors the Rotary wheel with cog and gears.
A total of 66 of the 140 schools have been identified. Engineers must now visit the sites and assure each site is capable of being developed before further progress and construction may begin.
A tentative timetable was discussed of having the first three of the schools under construction by the first part of December and completed by March of 2016 -Heavily dependent upon factors such as weather, blockade etc.
I believe that the partnership is assisted significantly by the leadership, not only through FNCCI but by the professional engineering expertise of DG Keshav and the legal and governmental expertise of PDG Tirtha Man, Chair of the Program Steering Committee, who will serve for 5 years, and who has served as Chief Secretary for the Government of Nepal. Don, Robert and I have been impressed with their passion, expertise and outstanding efforts- DG Keshav has presented us with both an executive summary and over 30 page long range summary and 5 year implementation plan.
We were joined at this meeting by District Treasurer Nugal and DGE Jaya and DGN Sanjay along with others.
At about 6:30 PM, we joined from the District Office and taken to Patan Durbar Square. Along the way we traveled through narrow streets and enjoyed the mystical pleasure of the city. At the Square we witnessed the destruction caused by the earthquake. Missing temples leave their base series of steps and statues and pedestal columns with their caps and statues shaken off the tops– a huge loss to all humanity. But just as in Bhaktapur, the Square remains a magnificent set of structures and caused within me a mystical magical sense. Following a bite of food at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Square, Don and I were surprised to be treated to the start of a ten day festival of dancing ..the native music with the bass of their unique horns and the bright and varied costumes under light in the Square was a special treat!!
On Wednesday, we were picked up by DG Keshav. With Nepal’s over 28 million populations, about 81 percent are Hindu with the bulk of the balance Buddhist, Muslims and Christians. DG Keshav escorted us to the Pashupatinah Temple, an UNESCO declared heritage site. This is also one of the holiest temples of the world revered and worshipped by Hindus.
Although we could not enter the principal temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, the God of Gods, the grounds and temple structures continued to impress us. The temple sits adjacent to the Bagmati- holy river which is a tributary of the Ganges. We witnessed a family preparing for a Hindu funeral and also the burning embers of another family’s loved one. I saw no visible damage from the earthquake.
What surprised me was to see adjacent to the temple grounds, a building erected by Mother Teresa which provides shelter and care for over two hundred.
We returned to the District Office, where we had an opportunity to discuss the prior days exchanges and clarify questions and answers as to FNCCI and the school partnership.
We enjoyed an intimate conversation and lunch at DGE Jaya’s residence located across from the Office. This gave us an opportunity to confirm in a comfortable setting the total commitment to the five year plan on the part of both DGE Jaya and DGN Sanjay.
After lunch we journeyed a short 6 kilometres to the quaint historic village of Khokana, which has been assisted over the past several years by Rotary Club of Patan West. Current President Ashok Sakya and Past President Dr. Vijaya, who had joined us over lunch escorted us to a cluster of over 80 temporary shelters once again surrounding a large open space approximately 50 percent were directly through Rotary Club and a significant number being financed by members of displaced families forwarding funds from abroad.
Dr. Vijaya is a hematologist and stressed the need for proper sanitation, taking pride that no infectious disease outbreak has occurred. He also stressed the concept that is being employed within the District project that it requires more than just placing toilets in homes but educating adults and youth as to proper sanitary procedures.
We journeyed on to visit a rehabilitated school at the edge of the village. A brand new building. The surrounding high hills and terraced hillsides with workers in the fields presented quite a picture. We stopped to watch the manufacture of mustard oil with local Rotarians purchasing some.
We then journeyed to another site at Harisiddhi to inspect the temporary shelters constructed with support from RC Yala.
DOWN TO ROTARY SPECIFICS- ERRRP
The meeting of the Earthquake Relief Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Program Steering Committee started at a bit past five since Past RI Director Yash arrival by plane from India was delayed and then his bags did not arrive. The full Committee came together under the Chairmanship of PDG Tirtha Man Sakya.
A basic description of the 7 members’ Committee, it’s PDG advisory group and 7 Sub-committees’ structure was set forth. Discussion was held as to the need for complete transparency and the RFP given to Price Waterhouse accounting firm to be retained. Bid from Price Waterhouse is expected soon. Yash is representing RI President Ravi to assure this transparency in financials and to render whatever assistance may be requested. DAF members are present to verify the substance and process in the project of building 140 schools and 1000 homes in “clusters” of 50 to 110.
We feel that following this trip, a change from the primary focus being on schools will be reversed to become an emphasis on housing on the part of the DAF. Although not charged with fundraising itself, those DAF members present are in agreement to assist in fundraising efforts and communication of the District story and projects.
About 1.4 million $US has been raised so far by the District 3292 with about $200,000 US expended in immediate relief efforts and construction of temporary shelters. The concept and Rotary’s motto of “service above self” was discussed as various members described how they and their families were without tents for shelters while the Clubs and District were handing out tents and relief items to others. Each agreed that Rotarians and the families could not personally receive financial benefit through these projects.
Vetting of potential sites and communities has begun. Emphasis has to be on ethnicity, geographic representation and socio- economic diversity between sites. 7 “cluster” sites have been identified with an ultimate target of 15 to 17 sites. Each site will have between 50-110 homes (serving 5-6 persons in each home), a community hall, health post etc. Access roads need to be developed to provide an ability to deliver materials and assist in making the site more economic strong. Each site currently selected has had an existing relationship with Rotary through prior receipt of relief materials and a relationship and confidence has been established. Engineering studies need to be performed. Approval through local government bodies and the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction at Central Level is proceeding.
Construction techniques include “tie bricks/stones”; earthbags; bamboo with cement plaster. Each site must have no objection from the local VDC-village development committee; a signed MOU-Memorandum of Understanding; an orientation of a Village Users’ Committee; orientation of local Rotary Clubs and Rotaract Clubs; formation of Rotary Community Corps; be subject to District. Project staff that are to be hired; construct the homes; monitor budget with time and work schedule; report to stakeholders on progress and completion; with an exit strategy by District Committee.
Draft home renderings were shared. Drafting and construction must include earthquake proof techniques and local materials. One house requires over 8000 bricks, if that is material to be used.
A plan for training masons and carpenters out of local population was shared.
Several general topics were discussed: imposing a method to assure that once completed, the houses should not be sold for a period of years; development of a list of targeted individuals, businesses and NGO’s to partner with in financing ; marketing of the projects including composing a CD for distribution at International Assembly by the DGE to her 540 counterparts from across the globe; presentation at Past Officers Reunion; booth at RI Convention; expansion beyond the basic shelter to include provision of water- aqua box, biogas, solar lights; gravity fed water tank; use of the local labor force and potential securing commitment from recipients of government housing subsidy to assist in project financing.
Detailed master plans and a map of model village were presented and will be developed for each site.
The assembled gathering adjourned to a local restaurant to enjoy each others friendship. Don, Yash and I were returned by DG Keshav to our Hotel around 9:30 that night.
Each day has been carefully prepared for our visit and even the initial site-seeing is meant to show us the impact of the earthquake. Each day built upon the prior.
I was not prepared for our next journey even though it disclosed the visit to the project site of District 3292 in partnership with Thai-Nepali Association.
The concept of this District project came from Rotary high school Interactors- and who says the future is not in good hands. We can trust our thoughtful youth to lead us through crises.
A group of District members of ERRRP Steering Committee hopped into three all wheel vehicles and left the confines of Kathmandu. I was lucky to find myself in the front seat. We headed up the mountain. After an hour we stopped so the vehicles and passengers could share beverages at the Himalayan Horizon- the meeting place of the DG’s Rotary Club in Dhulikhel. We went around the building and were greeted with a spectacular view of the Himalayas. It was cloudy and we could just see peaks which appeared to be floating in air-AWESOME. After sharing tea and coffee, we were each presented bright yellow and blue Rotary vests from the District.
Another short 2-3hours later after going up up and further up mountains and then down again on winding roads and then gravel and dirt roads , we crossed a river to find ourselves on a narrow dirt road halfway up a mountain adjacent to a carefully tended terrace. We exited the vehicles and set out on a hike down the mountain. After about fifteen minutes, we came out of the timbered area upon a ridge. At the end of the trail we had come down, were 50 to 100 villagers under a pole structure suspending a welcome banner. Extending beyond along the ridge halfway up the mountain overlooking the valley and river below were two parallel bands of houses running the ridge line-47 in all !!!!! The entire area had been carefully leveled. All of the foundations going down into the ground about three feet had been laid with steel frames outlining each- metal roofing was atop the continuous flow of homes- they had common walls on two sides Concrete floors. Cement running up about three feet and modular panels above. Well over half were nearing completion (and except for the embargo and shortage fuel, all would have been completed) with walls and windows. As we peered into those which were halfway done, we saw some of the corn crop stored temporarily there- they are self-sufficient group fishing and farming the terraces along their mountainside.
We had arrived at Sindhupalchok to see the first of the 1000 homes-a partnership with Thai-Nepali Association !! A project which will change the lives of this fishing village (fish obviously out of the mountain fed river below), a village within the geographic and political district hardest hit by the earthquake.
As I strolled back the one street of this new village with its citizens, I enjoyed a conversation with the Himalayan Tiger, a retired WWF wrestler who had returned from Georgia USA to his native land.
As we approached the end of the street of newly constructed homes and I was enjoying taking it all in, I noticed quite a crowd had gather about 100 feet further surrounding a large new building. The DG was outside the door. Next to him was a table with a bowl of oil and wick. As Chair of the DAF, I was given the honor of lighting this symbolic lamp and then proceeding with the DG and the village project Chair in cutting the ribbon attached and presenting the keys to the locked door to the village project Chair. It was a handing over ceremony of the Community hall to the Users’ Community.
We went inside to see the villagers gathered with mothers and their children carefully and quietly sitting in rows in the center of this newly built community hall and center. Once again the District had orchestrated a wonderful dedication ceremony for a center that any community would be proud to claim as their own!! The privilege was in delivering into the hands of the village the first completed community hall – it was now theirs!!!
What an experience!!!!
I have been blessed to see the work and passion of my fellow Rotarians in working with and for those coming through a disaster. Personally, I have experienced with my good friend RI President Ravi the opportunity to cut the ribbon one of seven new schools built by Rotary in Sri Lanka following the Tsunami; with my good friend PDG Bob Warner to participate in the dedication of a community center along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina ; with Past RI Director Barry Rassin to participate in reviewing plans and viewing restored schools after the Haitian earthquake-and now the surprise of a lifetime- to participate with DG Keshav in Sindhupalchok, Nepal.
The trip back started with a challenge- the access road which had also been carved and widened was still basically meant for one vehicle. As our pickup winds it’s way past the temporary tin shelters of the village on the mountainside below the new village, we continue up and down the mountainside and encounter a truck coming straight at us- it seemed like fifteen minutes to maneuver vehicles back to a point where the truck could inch- and I do mean “inch”, past us without sliding down the mountainside.
The rest of the trip back to the main highway was uneventful. As dark approached we were treated to a finishing touch- a relaxing gathering for all at DG Keshav’s home on the mountain side in Dhulikhel – appetizers, dinner and drinks on their patio around a firebowl and overlooking a fire pit and gardens. A fitting end to a fantastic day!!!!!
Some tidbits from conversations of the day-
Out of the 91 Rotary Clubs in District 3292, over 60 have clearly indicated their support of the District housing and school projects
We joined the Rotary Club of Kathmandu Mid-Town for breakfast at their Regular Weekly Meeting in our hotel Annapurna. The room was filled with over thirty Rotarians and visited by other Rotarians – one from Nepal- two from Germany working on a field of irrigation canal restoration and two from Pennsylvania, USA. The program was a power point presentation on their relief and reconstruction efforts. They raised $6000 US from within their Club, $4000 from within Nepal and $89,000 from outside Nepal. They delivered over 600 tarpaulins through the Rotary Community Corps at a cost of of $5000 together with food for distribution. Their construction of 100 temporary shelters was matched by another 100 shelters from the District at a cost of $23000 US. This was desperately needed when the monsoons came following the earthquake. They also worked with Rotaract and delivered solar lights. Their flagship program was defined: two community schools at a cost of approximately $98,000 each to be completed by 2016. The theme is- “build back better”. They must be safe, secure, providing a better learning environment, structurally sound building design, with ample classroom space, improved classroom practices and advanced technological advances. A model rendering was presented reflecting what we had seen the day before in Sindhupalchok. A cement foundation and floor with 3 foot high wall topped to the steel trussed supported roof composed of a modular sheet board with windows. In addition to the schools, community centres would be constructed in Kavre to serve as shelters in emergencies, so that schools can expand their programs and child care could take place. Financial transparency would be achieved by posting the finances on the Club website.
Joining the DG Keshav again, we traveled through the streets of Lalitpur
encountering one of numerous huge traffic jams at one of the gas stations distributing precious fuel- trucks were queued for what seemed a quarter mile or more and the usual two lane road had to accommodate the line and the two lanes of traffic. After a half hour or so we got through to open road and ventured another 1/2 to 1 hour to a rural village in the mountains outside Kathmandu- Manegaon, Burunchuli in adjoining Lalitpur District. In this village all of its 67 homes were reduced to rubble. A partnership has been formed with a newly formed NGO — Volunteers for Change (it’s leaders are young idealistic and passionate but bring expertise gained at such institutions as the World Bank or the UN with one just joining Rotary), the Rotary Club of Jawalekel Manjushree and the District 3292.
The power point presented at the school which withstood the earthquake was impressive. It will include 55 new homes, a gravity fed water tower, and model village. The theme is Rebuild for Change. The VFC follows Rotary’s six areas of focus- permanent housing, education, health sanitation and water, energy, and community based. It will utilize earthbags as this method survived earthquake destruction in April. The bags will be covered in mesh and plastered. It will utilize soft loans to those in need and who cannot receive loans
elsewhere. Once built, it will encourage home stays for tourism and feeding stock for a livestock bank. It will use alternative clean energy. It will also have within the master plan a “Pandhero” – a place for gathering for women to get drinking water, wash clothes, gather to socialize and bathe.
It must be self-sustainable. All financials will be posted online and fully transparent. The original timetable was one year, but the fuel crisis and blockade set this realistically back to two years (or less).
Maps and drawings of the village layout and types of homes were presented.
There are two types of houses – one 2 story 2 bedrooms of stone and modular walls on the first floor and bamboo on the second floor- and a second type of one story and two bedrooms each with one living room. The homes must be earthquake resistant, have reinforced walls, buttressed corner, plaster mesh, reinforced bond beam around roofs.
We adjourned and walked past the devastated home sites of the village to the top of the mountainside overlooking the beautiful valley. In front of a crumbling structure, we gathered and met the villagers being garlanded with flowers and receiving the ceremonial annointment on our foreheads and held a ceremonial groundbreaking starting with comments from Udaya Shamsher Rana, member of Parliament. DG Keshav addressed the group and called us to lay the ceremonial bricks and mortar within the foundation dug into the ground. A touching privilege for each of us as we placed bricks into the foundation ditch and covered with binding mortar. Just as the Phoenix rises from the ashes, this village totally devastated by the earthquake will be rebuilt into a model community, with 55 homes ( the remaining 12 which were destroyed can join this group but only after clearance of proof of ownership which delays their inclusion).
Disappointment occurred on the part of DAF members as, the traffic jam and proceedings canceled our meetings with Ministry Officials from Government of Nepal.
We returned to the hotel to relax for an hour before proceeding to Tirtha Man’s residence just off Patan Durbar Square. A historic residence with inner courtyard and multilevel.
We were greeted by Tirtha Man and escorted into the residence removing our shoes in the staircase. As we enjoyed the company in the initial gathering of the Rotarians, I enjoyed the company of Chandani Joshi, who was among her many titles a member of the Civil Society Advisory Group of UN Women as well as a Rotarian and was introduced and joined the Chief Justice of the Nepal Supreme Court, Kalyan Shrestha in Newari fashion on the floor for a round of appetizers and the traditional pouring of Raksi – rice wine with a thousand bubbles- into small silver goblets raising the silver pot several feet while pouring in a steady stream into the goblet below!! A beautiful ceremony. My discussion with the Chief Justice was fascinating and ranged from broad philosophy of judicial activism, to the development of a new constitution over the last 6-7 years, to constitutional courts vs panels of the court to hear constitutional issues to his legal career and finally areas such as the judicial structure. A delightful insightful discussion.
But my tradition and hips and legs are not used to the floor and Newari ways. I was invited by Tirtha to join the four at the western style table. Don, Yash and the DG. A fifth person was present- surprise, I was joining Arjun Kumar Karki, Secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development of Government of Nepal. I joined my colleagues and was quickly absorbed into the conversation which had progressed beyond the specifics of required elements of the District projects into broad ranging issues affecting Nepal and the embargo- remember that Yash is from India. A much more free flowing conversation with the Secretary at times joking and chiding me for not eating all of the food that kept being placed upon our heavy brass plates.
Oh did I neglect to mention, we were eating over 36 traditional Newari dishes all fixed at home and being presented to us by Tirtha Man’s family or seeing Tirtha Man’s pride in introducing us to his great grandson- or as he said “grand grandson”.
We may have missed an official audience with the Secretary of the Ministry, but this evening gave us not only the information but an opportunity to verify the strong confidence of the Government with Rotarians and Rotary.
We took the mountain flight to Mt Everest early morning – Who could possibly come to Nepal and miss the opportunity to experience up close amend personal the views of a lifetime!!!!!
The afternoon and evening were consumed by the District’s Rotary Foundation Seminar needing DG Keshav’s full time presence there. Outstanding with the Keynote Speakers being Rotary Foundation Trustee Sushil Gupta from Delhi- a Rotarian well versed on disaster relief and with whom I have worked for over a decade. It was a pleasure to see my friend.
We held meetings with the Deputy Director General of the Department of Urban Development Rabi Shah, who is the person that the District will have direct communication with on submission of applications for approval on the homes. Although he acknowledged that policies continue to change and get further refined, the project as presented to him appeared within the current guidelines and should be capable of being completed as presented by the District Leadership.
Afterwards, we visited the Monkey Temple to view the city from the temple’s heights and to absorb its history and magic. It has suffered some damage but this can be rebuilt and it does not detract from the beauty and mystique of its centuries old heritage.
A trip to the confines which house the majority of Ministries – across from the office of the Prime Minister, we entered the offices of the Ministry of Education. Here we met with Dr. Hari Prasad Lamsal, Joint Secretary in the Ministry. He confirmed that over 8000 schools had been destroyed with a desire to rebuild over a three year period. Winter will soon be setting in and the majority of these schools are being housed in temporary facilities ill-equipped to deal with their harsh winters. It is clear of the need for private partnerships to rebuild the schools. Over half of the 8000 must rely on private funds for rebuilding. The government however must assure its people of the safe measures through finalization of school designs and approval of each. He was not hesitant in assuring Don and myself that the partnership of FNCCI and the Rotary District will do the best job. He was confident of the Rotary District personalities involved. He felt in normal times that a March timetable for schools to start being completed was attainable. To me it was the strongest endorsement that could be received realizing that outside forces could unfortunately bear on adherence to the timetable.
We concluded our stay with a wonderful Nepali luncheon with the mandatory Raksi and multitude of dishes. We exchanged numerous tokens of deep affection and respect.
TO CONCLUDE WITH
There is no question that the right project has been selected by Rotary but that it has the backing and has been adopted in both the local communities and villages and supported at the highest levels in full compliance with the rules of the Government of Nepal – and that the leadership of the Steering Committee in this five year plan and it’s development is fully endorsed by the DG , DGE, and DGN of District 3292.
All of the opportunities for visiting the magnificent world heritage sites, the majesty of the Himalayan mountains seen from the “hill” country of the Kathmandu valley, the beauty of the valley itself, and friendliness of the Nepali people encourage me to invite you to schedule a visit to the magical and mystical land called Nepal. You will not be disappointed.
Our sincere thanks to DG Keshav and PDG Tirtha Man, DGE Jaya, DGN Sanjay and all of the Rotarians who assisted each of us and with whom we have become true friends.
Down to the basics of our trip on behalf of the Nepali Earthquake Relief Donor Advised Fund- I believe that we met and exceeded our objectives: we have met the leadership with communities affected; we have met the Rotarians and Partners such as FNCCI and South
Asia Society for Development and Cooperation, we have met with key officials of the Government of Nepal. The plans and projects for 1000 new homes and 140 new schools are viable and well-conceived under outstanding leaders who have already given us credible evidence of success through Sindhupalchok and Burunchuli. All that needs to happen from our perspective is the communication of these opportunities to the rest of the Rotary world and the contribution of funds!!!!!!
I challenge each of you to join with me as I am now willing to financially make a commitment to this project.
If it is to me, now it is up to me!!!
Respectfully submitted for your consideration
PRID Robert “Bob” Stuart
Nepali Earthquake Relief DAF
PRID Don Mebus
Rtn Robert Rose