24 October 2018
A wide-ranging humanitarian initiative by USC staff and Hervey Bay Rotarians plans to use the power of education to help reduce poverty in one of Nepal’s poorest districts.
The team of 14 volunteers will leave next week for a three-week visit to Nepal’s Rasuwa district, the birthplace of USC Lecturer in Accounting Ratna Paudyal, who is based at the University’s Fraser Coast campus.
“It is through education that economic distress is defeated and growth gains momentum to change the economic outlook for people,” said Mr Paudyal who was born to illiterate parents in a small rural village and grew up with 13 siblings in a one-bedroom home.
The trip continues humanitarian work started three years ago by USC and Rotary Hervey Bay City after the area was heavily impacted by earthquake.
As part of this year’s mission, the group will establish internet hubs in remote regional villages using laptops and computers donated by USC to assist older school children complete their studies and move into tertiary education.
The team will run youth leadership and empowerment training for three regional youth groups and USC academics will provide children from primary school to high school with the opportunity to experience hands-on science for the first time.
USC Lecturer in Animal Ecology Dr Kathy Townsend will also work with local youths to quantify the type, distribution and amount of debris found within the local villages.
“From there we will identify the various sources of debris, and brainstorm potential innovative solutions to the problem, including generating microbusiness opportunities where plastic waste is turned into useful, sellable items,” she said.
Another major initiative involves providing training and resources to establish small micro-enterprises to produce feminine hygiene kits for school girls and mothers.
Rotary Hervey Bay City president Bob Beer said previous projects had delivered hundreds of the kits to girls who could otherwise not attend school when menstruating, which impacted on their education and opportunities to gain higher qualifications.
“This time we are aiming to help achieve self-sufficiency and stimulate economic growth by establishing microbusinesses funded by the members of Rotary Hervey Bay City and the Hervey Bay community,” he said.
“If village women are given the ability to produce the kits themselves, they can sell them for a modest fee and use the funds to produce more kits, achieving benefits on several fronts.”
USC academics, including Mr Paudyal, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Engineering Dr Helen Fairweather and Dr Townsend, will also deliver professional development to university teachers in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.
Mr Paudyal, who gained Master qualifications in Nepal before moving to Australia to work as a lecturer, has also been invited to share his educational journey with university staff.
“I am positive it will inspire them to engage in effective teaching and learning,” he said. “I feel so privileged to be able to give back to the community I came from. My philosophy is that giving, and sharing is a win-win for everyone.”
A final fundraising push is underway by the volunteers, who will cover their own travel expenses. The project is registered with Rotary Australia Worldwide Community Service and each donation is tax deductible. To donate go to www.directory.rawcs.com.au/10-2015-16
— Clare McKay