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Nepal Veterinary School Project Update

Pet Tales
bb Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.

At a time when year-end reports are being issued in many places, I want to give readers an up date on a project I talked about in a column last September.

Last October, Dr. Ron Fox and I, with assistance from Veterinarians Without Borders/Veterinaires Sans Frontiers (VWB/VSF) travelled to Nepal in order to complete the Nepal Veterinary School Project (NVSP). The project had received 4 Dell laptop computers and funds totaling just over U.S. $9,000.00 in generous donations received from veterinarians, veterinary associations, private individuals and Medi/Cal Royal Canin Veterinary Diet.

The NVSP was an effort to assist in the training of veterinary students at the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS), Tribhuvan University, located in Rampur, Chitwan, Nepal. The project, endorsed and supported by VWB/VSF, was an outgrowth of other support given to the veterinary school. With help from the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, each year since 2007, we have collected used veterinary textbooks donated by veterinarians in Ontario and shipped them to Nepal. It was recognized that to counter the high cost of shipping books half way around the world and to allow veterinary students in Nepal the opportunity to access modern electronic learning aids, computers would be necessary. Unfortunately, due to economic conditions in that country, such resources were not available.

Ron and I were rather tired, after 20 plus hours of air travel and a day in Hong Kong, when we arrived in Kathmandu. However, we were determined to begin our visit with a bit of exercise. Therefore, we immediately travelled on to Pokara, a city about 200 km southwest of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu. Pokara was the starting point for a 4 day, 3 night trek in the Annapurna massif, a spectacular range in the Himalayas. We find such an experience a wonderful way to see some magnificent scenery and marvel at the strength and resourcefulness of the people living in Nepal's mountainous terrain.

When we returned to Kathmandu it was time to continue with computer related business. Dr. Subir Singh, Asst. Professor, Dept. Veterinary Medicine and Public Health at IAAS had been working as our project manager, along with some colleagues, at their end. They had chosen a room in a building on campus that would become the student computer library. They had drawn up rules and guidelines to govern the use by the students of the new resources. They had prepared a Memorandum of Understanding for the Electronic Library Establishment Project. This document was to ensure that funds would be used in the way contributors to the NVSP intended them to be. Finally, they had located a company in Kathmandu who could supply the computers.

Ron and I met with Mr. Arun Shrestha, Managing Director of World Distribution Nepal at their company headquarters in Kathmandu. At that meeting we were able to negotiate and complete an agreement for the purchase of 7 Dell Desktop Computers, a computer projector, a printer and related equipment for the IAAS veterinary school.

Our wives, Donna and Barb, now joined us in Nepal and we travelled south 200 km. to the veterinary school at the IAAS. We met with Professor Dr. S.M. Shrestha, Dean of the IAAS and Dr. I.P. Dhakal, Campus Chief of the veterinary school and Dr. Singh. In a brief ceremony, held in the room that will house the student computer library, we formally presented the gift and it was was gratefully acknowledged. With this aspect of our visit completed we were able to renew our friendship with Dr. Singh in a more relaxed setting. Subir and his wife Raksha proudly introduced us to their first child, a daughter now one month old, in their home on the IAAS campus. In a fashion similar to how Donna and I had been welcomed in 2008, they then served us a home cooked, traditional Nepali meal. A visit of this kind is made so much more interesting and meaningful when a friendship like this can be established.

We left Nepal feeling that we knew, a little better, some very remarkable people. We had walked the mountain pathways they walk. We had seen them at work, we had seen them at play. We had seen the beauty of the natural world that surrounds them. We felt empathy for the struggle to survive that many face. We had envied the satisfaction they must feel in meeting the challenges they encounter. We admired their resilience and their resourcefulness. We had seen the important role that animals play in their lives. We sincerely hope that the outcome of the Nepal Veterinary School Project will be to improve, even in a tiny way, the lives of some of the deserving animals and people in Nepal.