When Portland Pearl Rotarian Jordan Weisman returned to Nepal last month on his fourth visit to the mountainous Asian country, he celebrated the culmination of a Rotary service project.
First in Nepal in 2000 on a student program from a college in Vermont, Weisman was back to observe–and champion–the $60,000 installation of solar energy at a rural hospital. Over the past two years, Weisman, as chair of Pearl Rotary’s international service committee, has spearheaded the effort to greatly expand electricity at the Bayalpata Hospital.
With the increased power, Weisman told his fellow Rotarians March 26, “They are opening up a new surgery ward. With the solar power inked to the surgical room, they will be able to perform life-saving surgeries.”
Weisman’s visits to Nepal, he said, “have changed my life.” Now with a steady and reliable power supply at the rural hospital, the lives of the 30,000 Nepalese served annually will be changed, even saved.
Under the youthful Rotarian’s leadership, the project was formed with support from three area Rotary Clubs, District 5100, and, significantly, four companies in the solar business (including Weisman’s Sunbridge Solar). Connections were made with the Dhulikhel Rotary Club in Katmandu Valley, District 3292. Nepal’s Nyaya Health NGO committed $12,300. Weisman’s club, through its non-profit Pearl Fund, donated $4,350.
Armed with this multitude of partners, Pearl Rotary successfully sought a Rotary Foundation grant, totaling $20,525.
The result: The western Nepal hospital, which had been operating daily on four to six hours of generator-produced electricity, now has a steady, reliable source of power for its patient area, operating room and administrative office.
Weisman’s five-hour visit in February came after an internal Nepal flight and an eleven-hour car ride over hilly terrain. At the hospital, he was accompanied by Ashok Shrestha, Dhulikhel’s immediate past president, and an assistant district governor. They were greeted by Stephen Peterson, a native of Upstate New York, who has served as chief administrator the past four months.
Weisman’s Powerpoint, with video clips, brought club members and guests–including two Nepalese studying at Portland State University–into the hospital. Patients with severe lung conditions who need oxygen concentrators will not have to wait for electricity. Caesarean-expected mothers will not have to make an arduous trek like Weisman experienced. Operations can be scheduled with far more assurance that power will be available.
Weisman stressed that the project is both sustainable and saves money. A Nepali has been trained to operate and maintain the panels and battery system, assuring both constant supply and longevity of the system. And costly diesel-powered generators are far less needed.
“Without solar, the only option has been generators. But diesel is really, really pricy. Only twenty hours of generator use was used in the last two months since the solar array was installed…
“The financial impact is pretty significant. It was costing about $100 a day to run generators (about ten hours average). That’s $2,500 a month, $30,000 a year. Now that can be spent to hire a doctor, increase salaries. Eventually, this will result in better patient care.”
Weisman’s visit culminated at the hospital with a formal event, with an American flag prominently hanging and Peterson, the director, making a formal dedication. Both, joined by the two Nepali Rotarians, spoke.
Weisman will long remember those momets: “We then handed over plaques. The hospital staff was all present. It was very heartfelt.”
Commentary on the Nepal solar project
“Things like this Nepal project make you proud to be a Rotarian.”
–Dave Haack, president, Portland Pearl Rotary Club
“Thanks to you ([Jordan] that you went there. Thanks for doing such a great thing for the community who are living there and for my country as a whole.”
–Lisha Shrestha, graduate student from Nepal, Portland State University
“What has this meant for us? When I first came here in November, I remember the nights just worrying about patients. We had so many people with COPD on O2 and our solar [original system referring to battery bank] was down to 20% and 15% because we just had no alternatives, otherwise we have no oxygen. I was running around shouting at people, “Turn this light off, turn off that heater.” We were trying to conserve. And now I’m sleeping a little bit better. We have other problems but at least this one’s finished. Not just for my sleep but for the ability to serve our patients, this has been a really tremendous blessing. Thank you again. Thank you very much.”
–Stephen Peterson, administrator, Bayalpata Hospital
“I’m continuously impressed with the power of Rotary’s ‘compounding effect’ when it comes to matching grants for service projects! It’s amazing how a Rotary Club in the Pacific Northwest USA can come together with another in western Nepal and literally improve and save lives for years to come. It warms my heart to serve with Portland Pearl Rotarians like Jordan and his international service committee for projects such as this one in Nepal. This is why we are Rotarians!”
–Lou Radja, immediate past president, Pearl Rotary Club