Can you imagine the sheer helplessness, humiliation and desperation of a human being, in this day and age, who cannot have a bath even once a year? Impossible, you might say, or think. But as the cover story of this issue reveals, the entire population of a village called Pere in our Rotary zone, Nepal, situated at 11,000ft above sea level, suffered this ignominy, till Rotary came into their lives.
In March 2022, Rotary Club of Mahabouddha, RID 3292, Kathmandu, did almost the impossible in this village of 1,363 people, by bringing piped water supply to all the 236 homes. But up in the mountains, aren’t water springs commonly available, you might well ask. A legitimate question; the answer is Pere village has a river running through it, but thanks to the elevation, it is frozen round the year and of little use to the villagers. For their drinking, cooking and minimal washing needs, the village women had to climb up and walk a distance of 2km to fetch barely two or three pots a day from a mountain spring. With Rotarians not only bringing piped water supply to their homes, through a global grant project done in partnership with a club from Switzerland, but also building toilets in their homes, the people can now regularly bathe, wash their clothes, cultivate their land and grow and consume crops other than just roots. The children have returned to school, and one child asked the question: ‘After school, what further can I study?’
This is the kind of hope Rotary offers to the hopeless… making it possible to dream of a future beyond poverty and destitution.
But while this Kathmandu club deserves our applause for doing this transformational project valued at $196,000, the worsening crisis in Sri Lanka continues to distress. As the country descends into much deeper chaos, and young Sri Lankans decided to teach their corrupt politicians a lesson, the tiny island-nation’s Rotarians and Rotaractors, led by past president K R Ravindran, took out a solidarity march in Colombo to demand accountability and a corruption-free regime to pull the country out of the morass it has sunk into. As the hostilities, violence and bloodshed in Ukraine continue, and inflation raises its ugly head in our own country, with loss of jobs and spiralling prices of essential commodities sending underprivileged and lower middle class Indians into stressful times, our world gives us little cause for cheer.
Until you look at the transformational service projects being done by Rotarians. Pere village in Nepal is only one example. As RI President Shekhar Mehta points out in an interview published in this issue, the most satisfying aspect of his year at the helm of Rotary was seeing amazing projects aimed at the empowerment of girls… be it in Egypt, Nigeria or his home town of Kolkata, as of course the rest of India.
When girls and women are truly empowered, they can change the face of India or any other country in the world. All that they need is just a helping hand… and some wind beneath their wings!