Our special guest last week was Stephanie Woollard, AO, founder of the ‘Seven Women’ organisation that supports disabled women in Nepal. RC Ivanhoe has been with Stephanie from the beginning of her ‘Seven Women’ project. It all started with a $1000 grant from our club around 12 years ago for equipment to enable Stephanie to gain assistance from a United Nations Development Program. This has developed into the huge program that provides financial and social support to disabled women in Katmandu Nepal.
A recent initiative has been opening of a guest house in Katmandu for tour groups. Over 200 people including the Australian ambassador to Nepal at- tended the official opening. Stephanie explained how provision of cultural immersion experience for tour groups was a major source of income for Seven Women. 15 tours per year were being run until Covid-19 struck, including government-funded university student cultural immersion tours.
With the coronavirus restrictions tours are not happening and the guesthouse facility is not hosting international visitors. To make better use of the facility the garden area has recently been converted into a café for locals.
Stephanie explained that lockdown has particularly affected food availability for the Nepalese. To address this Seven Women has been running a cooking school and teaching people how to grow their own vegetables.
On fundraising under Covid-19 restrictions, Steph told us about her latest fundraising documentary on how Nepalise tourism can enrich lives. This replaces fundraising from conference presentations that are not happening now.
Ever forward-looking, Stephanie is planning to put the Seven Women cooking classes on line. As well as launching the documentary, Steph is writing another book and has given herself only 3 weeks to complete it. No fewer than 20 other people have also taken up the challenge to complete a book in the same timeframe.
On Covid-19, Stephanie commented that the negativity of media can be overwhelming. Australia’s death rate is very low compared with other countries. Mental health particularly for teenagers is a major concern.
Stephanie continues to be an active member of the Rotary Club of Melbourne where she focuses on younger members.
Thanks Steph for a positive and uplifting talk. An example of how one can make the most of what at first may seem to be overwhelmingly difficult circumstances.