Fairfield Rotarian visits Nepal to see new well

Photo courtesy of Doug Flournoy

Doug Flournoy opens the tap to the new well during the May 2019 ceremony in Nepal.
Photo courtesy of Doug Flournoy Doug Flournoy opens the tap to the new well during the May 2019 ceremony in Nepal.

NEPAL – Fairfield Rotarian Doug Flournoy visited Nepal earlier this year, where he saw firsthand the fruits of a fundraising drive sponsored by Rotary, Hy-Vee and Anheuser-Busch.

Those groups combined to donate thousands of dollars to establish a well in the town of Gaidakot, Nepal. Fairfield Hy-Vee donated $41,303, which the Rotary Foundation matched 50 cents on the dollar for another $20,000, plus $15,000 from Anheuser-Busch. The money was used to drill a deep-bore well and add a 400,000-liter reservoir tank. Last year, another well was drilled and public bathrooms were built. Eight kilometers of pipe were laid to deliver water to people’s homes, who until then had been drinking dirty surface water prone to contamination.

Flournoy teaches chemistry at Indian Hills Community College. After the school year ended last May, he spent about two weeks in Nepal, where he was greeted with a parade and ceremony to celebrate the well’s opening. Flournoy also got to visit a few other places in the country, such as touring the capital, Kathmandu, and taking a plane ride over Mount Everest.

This was not Flournoy’s first trip abroad to visit the site of a Rotary grant recipient. In fact, it was his second to Nepal. He has visited Haiti and Turkey once each, and Colombia three times. Flournoy pays for all his own expenses.

Flournoy said he was fascinated to learn how water was distributed in this Nepalese town. Unlike in the United States where water pipes are buried to prevent them from freezing, this part of Nepal is warm, so the locals build the water pipes above ground. One problem with that is that it exposes the pipes to the elements and hazards such as mudslides, and causes them to decay more quickly. That said, the town of Gaidakot had a good system in place to distribute water to public taps and collect money from users. Flournoy said the people knew how to manage water, they just didn’t have the equipment necessary to provide clean water at a sufficient quantity.

After Fairfield Rotary helped the town of Gaidakot drill a well and build its reservoir tank in 2013, the locals said the next project they wanted to undertake was testing the water. They built a water office to do exactly that.

“And since paper is in short supply, they paint the results of the water tests on the wall,” Flournoy said.

Thanks to this series of grants, the town of Gaidakot now has a modern water conveyance system with a pump that delivers water from a well into a reservoir and through a conveyance system to people’s homes, hospitals, schools and other buildings. The infrastructure in place is large enough to accommodate 25,000-30,000 people, giving Gaidakot the chance to grow.

The people of Gaidakot, and specifically the Rotarians of Nariyani River Midtown which organized the project on Nepal’s side, held a reception for Flournoy and Rotary’s district grant chairman Brock Earnhardt upon their arrival. Flournoy gave a speech in which he spoke about why he became interested in the project, and a local person interpreted his message into Nepali.

“The community was so well motivated to manage their water supply that it inspired me to give them a hand,” he said.

During his subsequent travels through the country, Flournoy visited Buddha’s birthplace and went on a safari where he saw six black rhinoceroses, of which there are only 600 in the whole world.

In addition to obtaining grants from the Rotary club in Fairfield, Rotary clubs in surrounding towns contributed to the project as well such as both Rotary clubs in Mt. Pleasant, and those in Wellman, Ottumwa and Bloomfield. The total project cost was $185,000.

Flournoy said Nepal is a beautiful country full of picturesque lakes and hillsides. He commented that the people are gracious and friendly.

“We saw amazing temples, and our flight to the Himalayas was beyond description,” he said.

Flournoy said that traveling through the country is a challenge, but foreigners can hire a local driver to get them around. He said the rules of the road are quite different from those in the United States since there are few if any stop signs or road signs at all. And yet, he said the motorists are able to manage without getting into accidents.

“There are unwritten rules that they’re following. We just don’t know what they are,” he said.