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Rotary Group trip to Nepal was rewarding

West Seattle Herald of Seattle, Washington

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For many people the nation of Nepal is a mountainous mystery. Reports from climbers of the world's highest peaks, and news of conflicts with the government only add to the level of uncertainty about a place that was possibly the inspiration for the mythical Shangri-La.

But Nepal, while it has a long history is a vibrant and varied natiori of more than 26 million with a climate ranging from hot and humid in the south to K2, Mt. Everest and others in the Himalayan range that reach to the heavens. It's also a place that has a very active Rotary Club, so active they were able to set up their own district in the international organization and take part in the Rotary Club Foundation Group Study Exchange Program.

The West Seattle Rotary Club meeting for Jan. 24 featured members of the local District 5030 (three of whom are from West Seattle) who spoke about their four week trip in an exchange with District 3292 in Nepal. The trip took place between Dec. 9 2011, and Jan. 9, 2012. The West Seattleites who went are Team Lead: Steve Fuller, Team Members: Chris Loef-fler and Jason Beloso.

The Rotary Foundation's Group Study Exchange (GSE) program is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for one Rotarian and four young non-Rotarian professionals. Since its inception in 1965, the Group Study

Exchange program has provided grants for countless teams of men and women in the early stages of their business and professional careers to travel abroad and share vocational information with the representatives of their respective professions in another country.

The team experiences the host country's culture and institutions, observes the practice of vocations, develops personal and professional relationships, and exchanges ideas. The Rotary Foundation grant funds round-trip air transportation for the team. Rotarians provide lodging in their homes, meals and group travel.

More than 500 exchanges between paired Rotary districts occur each year, advancing the program's ultimate goal of promoting international understanding and goodwill.

Speaking during the presentation Loeffler and Martin spoke about their experiences. They spoke about the education system, noting that it is largely not funded but has the same number of grades as the U.S. The construction industry is growing rapidly there but there is lack of equipment and materials. Most buildings are no taller than three stories. The textile industry largely driven by silk and silk worms was addressed. Martin, who is an electrical engineer talked about the out-of-date and dangerous electrical grid in Nepal. The speakers noted that poor sanitation and pollution of the environment are already bad and growing problems there. Loeffler told of visiting one town where an annual fair was taking place and they were rushed to the stage, before a crowd of thousands and then were asked to dance for the crowd, a funny and somewhat embarrassing request.

The Team's itinerary included visits and interaction with Rotarysponsored projects, government and regional development institutions, businesses organizations, and places and spaces important to the daily way of life.

They were on Nepalese television and radio doing interviews too The team visited cities, towns, and regions of Kathmandu, Dhu-likhel, Pokhara, Chitwan, Butwal, Palpa Tansen, Lumbini, Hetuada, Birgunj, Dharan, and Biratnagar. The Team led over 15 Rotary District 5030 project and general Seattle, WA - focused presentations to Nepali Rotary Clubs, and took part in over 5 vocational visits organized by Nepali Rotarians.

Rotary District 5030 Seattle, WA will welcome the District 3292 Nepal GSE Team through the month of April. 2012.

Of particular note to the Seattle Nepal relationship, Rotary District 5030, Seattle, WA has recently led a $330,000 Rotary Foundation 3-H grant (3-H = Health, Hunger & Humanity) focused on an overall disability awareness campaign to help change the current negative attitudes and superstitions toward those with disabilities in Nepal.

Patrick Robinson can be reached at

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Original Publication Date: February 3, 2012

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