Just seven months old, Conrad Tournour is easily the youngest Canadian ambassador to set his little feet in Nepal.
Rob Tournour and his wife, Sumitra, took Conrad along on their most recent trip in October to the country ravaged by earthquakes in 2015. The trip marked the second time Sumitra has been to Nepal. “This was a very different experience than the first,” she noted. “Seeing the reaction of the children to Conrad and the way the teachers welcomed him 100 per cent was very special.”
Her first trip as part of ongoing efforts to build schools underlined the need for the initiative, she explained. “Both my parents were teachers so I’ve always believed in the importance of education,” she explained. “Going back this time as a mother and thinking of Conrad not having those opportunities (for education), I really saw the difference we’re making in so many kids’ lives.”
Rob Tournour, founder and president of Another Brick in Nepal, has been to the country six times since he launched Another Brick in Nepal in 2016 in the wake of the devastating quakes. “It’s turned into a passion that keeps getting stronger,” he said. “When you see the unbelievable level of poverty and the gratitude the people show for what we’re doing…I can’t really describe it.”
Work on the first school, Bandhevi Primary in the village of Aapchaur, began in June of 2017. It opened in January 2018, providing educational opportunities for 70 children in kindergarten through to Grade 6. The village hosted a celebration to coincide with the Tournours’ visit, an emotional experience that had a profound effect on the six board members from Another Brick in Nepal who accompanied the Tournours. “They arrived as volunteers and returned as ambassadors,” Rob said. “They were talking about planning another trip shortly after we arrived.”
The group also went to Sankhuwasava, a village in a very remote eastern area of the country near Chainpur, where work on another school began in June. “The people there had never seen a blond, blue-eyed baby before,” Sumitra said. “The kids and teachers were fascinated. Conrad was definitely a celebrity. They’re such a family and child-oriented culture to begin with, and they were in awe.”
Sharada School is a much larger project, a two-story, eight-classroom school that will accommodate 450 students from kindergarten to Grade 10. Half of the $100,000 cost is being funded by Another Brick in Nepal, which became a registered charity in March 2018. The other half of the cost is covered through a partnership with two levels of Nepali government. “We hope to be completed in March of 2019,” Rob said. Board members also went to Mahendra School in Khandbari, something Rob had been unable to do on his last trip due to time constraints. “It was very powerful, such a sincere greeting with flowers and blessings, pretty emotional, especially for first-timers.” The school has 800 students, including a residential program for deaf children. The school committee shared their most urgent needs with Rob, a wish list that would cost about 200,000 rupees, or roughly $5,800 Canadian. Although previous trips have taught him not to make promises without ensuring the support is in place first, it only took a quick vote on the spot for the other board members to agree to assist the school. “We told them through an interpreter that we’d email the money by the end of November,” Rob said. “For the cost of a week’s holiday for two at an all exclusive, we were able to fulfill all their requests.”
Another Brick in Nepal hosts an event on Nov. 20 from 6:30 to 11 p.m. at Glo Restaurant at 2940 Jutland Rd. to raise funds for future projects. A documentary by local filmmakerNick Versteeg highlighting the most recent trip will be shown. A silent auction will include a variety of products and services from local businesses, a 50-50 draw tickets and Nepali scarves and toques will be available for sale as well. Tickets, which include appetizers and a draw for win door prizes rare available at eventbrite.ca and anotherbrickinnepal.com. For a look at photos and blogs that illustrates the charitable initiative since its inception or to make a donation, visit anotherbrickinepal.com.