By Divya Wodon and Naina Wodon, Interact Club of Washington International School, and Quentin Wodon, Rotary Club of Washington, Washington D.C., USA, TRF Cadre of Technical Advisors, and authors of Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience.
In 2009, after several years of planning, Neil Young from the Rotary Club of Towsontowne, Maryland, USA, traveled to Nepal with a group of Rotarians on the occasion of donating an ambulance to the Setiganga Community Hospital which serves over 100,000 people in the foothills of the Annapurna Range. The donation was made possible through fundraising by several clubs (Towsontowne, Hunt Valley, and Downtown Towson in the USA and Damauli in Nepal) as well as matching funds from the district and The Rotary Foundation. The project started when Prem Mahat, also a Rotarian from the Rotary Club of Towsontowne who had grown up in the Setiganga Community, suggested building a bridge for the community. Although the Rotarian team was initially going to help build this bridge, they realized when doing more research that the Setiganga Community first needed an ambulance.
While the ambulance has done a lot of good for the community, the project led to something none of the team members could have anticipated. Lauren, a Rotarian doctor who had joined the team to work with two other pediatric surgeons to care for children in the Nepalese community, arrived a few weeks early to hike the beautiful Annapurna Range. Towards the end of her hike, Lauren saw a little girl sleeping on rags in a run-down hostel. Lauren approached the owner of the hostel and asked him about the girl. The owner told her that the girl’s mother had not been able to afford to keep her and had sold her to serve as a kitchen aid. But as the girl was not of much use, the owner intended to get rid of her. Lauren immediately offered some money to take the girl with her. She brought her down to Kathmandu were she found a boarding school that accepted the girl.
The message of this story is to never underestimate where a service project can lead. Prem’s initial idea of a bridge led to the donation of an ambulance under Neil’s leadership, but it also led to this girl being saved by Lauren from a life of hardship. The ambulance project has served many lives and also transformed the life of that girl. As for Neil’s advice to Rotarians: learn how to work as a team in Rotary because together you can make a much larger difference.