by Divya Wodon, Naina Wodon, and Quentin Wodon
In 2009, after several years of efforts, Neil Young from the Towsontowne Rotary Club and other Rotarians traveled to Nepal on the occasion of the donation of an ambulance to the Setiganga Community Hospital which serves over 100,000 people in the foothills of the Annapurna Range. The donation was made feasible through fundraising by several clubs (Towsontowne, Hunt Valley, Downtown Towson, 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 Towsontowne club who had grown up in the Setiganga Community, suggested to build 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 really needed an ambulance first.
The ambulance has done a lot of good for the community. But as Neil told the story, it also led to something none of the members of the team could have anticipated. One of the Rotarians who traveled to Nepal was Lauren, a doctor who had come to work with two other pediatric surgeons to help provide care to children in the community. She had arrived a few weeks earlier in order to take the opportunity 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 hence had sold her to him 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 last story in this series of stories about district Rotarians engaged in service work is that you never really know what a service project can lead to. 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 probably saved many lives, but it also transformed the life of that girl. As to Neil’s advice to Rotarians, it is to“learn how to work as a team in Rotary because together you can make a much larger difference together”.
Note: This story is reproduced with minor changes from a book published by the authors entitled Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).