Having successfully completed a school building project in Timor Leste several years ago, Ian Toohill, of the Rotary Club of Eltham, Vic, was looking for a new international venture.
As the club’s international director, Ian approached friend Graeme Kent OAM, CEO of NGO Aussie Action Abroad (AAA). He had been to Nepal several times with Graeme in his previous role as CEO of the Duke of Edinburgh Program Victoria. He suggested partnering with AAA and a Nepalese educational organisation, Global Action Nepal (GAN), dedicated to improving the standard of basic education nationwide as a privately funded in-service teacher training facility.
Negotiations were conducted, funds committed, and a team assembled, which Ian took to Nepal in September last year to work alongside local Nepalese tradesmen on the foundations for a new two-storey training hall at the GAN compound in Lalitpur, 20km from the Kathmandu CBD. Prior to departure, the Interact Club of Montmorency Secondary College conducted a community dinner dance and raised $4000 for the project. The Rotary Club of Eltham has committed $35,000 over three years.
The team of nine bonded quickly, working well with the Nepalese crew, supervised by a Nepalese construction engineer contracted for the build. “The monsoon rains came back after a week working on the foundations, so the group repainted the dining hall of the accommodation block,” Ian said. “GAN staff were most appreciative to see the building have a facelift.”
“The relationship that was established between Eltham and the other three parties was strengthened by our visit, and bodes well for the future of the project once the pandemic crisis
The 18-day stay was not all work. Apart from two days travelling to and from Nepal, six days were taken up being tourists, shopping, visiting schools and donating supplies, exploring Lalitpur, visiting the ancient capital Bhaktapur, enjoying local restaurant cuisine and dining with the Rotary Club of Mahabouddha. A memorandum of understanding was signed by its president, the CEOs of GAN and AAA, together with the Rotary Club of Eltham’s president, John Skinner.
“Meeting many Nepalese was a great experience,” John said. “All were very appreciative of the work we did and treated us with kindness wherever we went.
“The relationship that was established between Eltham and the other three parties was strengthened by our visit, and bodes well for the future of the project once the pandemic crisis is over.”
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the trip planned for September 2020 has had to be postponed until sometime late in 2021. However, the Nepalese contractors have not been idle in the Australians’ absence. Up until the country was locked down in late March, work on the project had continued with Eltham club funds. Foundations have been completed and work above ground started. The total cost of the facility to completion is estimated at AUD $60,000.
The project is in the process of being approved with RAWCS and will be eligible for tax-deductible donations. Applications for the 2021 trip are welcome.