A party of nine from the Rotary Club of Dunbar (the K9) visit Kalimpong

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On Monday 12th September 2016, a party of nine from the Rotary Club of Dunbar set off on a journey of a lifetime, a journey that would take them to remote parts of north-east India and to the very foot of the Himalayas.  For Robin and Carol Hamilton, Brian and Judy Dale, Thelma and John Band, Elaine O’Brien, Wendy Badger and Rhona Bell this would be an opportunity to see the results of five years’ of hard work to bring about the provision of a Vocational Training Centre (VTC) for vulnerable women and children in the local area.  Spearheaded by Robin Hamilton, Rotary Clubs throughout the UK and further afield, many of them from East Lothian and the South of Scotland District, and aided by a Rotary International Global Grant had raised $70,000 to provide the funding for the building and equipping of the VTC in Kalimpong in north east India.   Dr Miku Foning, of the Rotary Club of Kalimpong, was the local coordinator for the project.

During their visit, which was hosted by the Rotary Club of Kalimpong, the party were taken on an arduous four hour journey to the very edge of the Himalayas, at a height of 7000 feet, to visit one of the remotest schools in the region, Nimbong Rural School.  The school which is run by the Scottish University Mission Institute (SUMI), based in Kalimpong, was only opened in 2015 but already has over 100 pupils.  Robin said “It was a real privilege to see the delight and pride shared by pupils, teachers and parents as they showed us round their new school”.

On Friday 16th September, the Dunbar party, led by the SUMI pipe band playing Scottish music, joined Kalimpong Rotarians and many other local dignitaries at the SUMI school for a ceremony to formally open the VTC.  The VTC was then handed over from Rotary to the Diocese of Eastern Himalayas Church of North East India (DISHA) who will be responsible for running the Centre.  Training at the VTC will be provided by the Indian Government Training Agency.  Speeches form local Rotarians, the Principal of SUMI and officials from DISHA were interspersed by a cultural programme of song and dance performed by pupils from the SUMI school.  The event was attended by 2500 students from the school whose enthusiasm added greatly to the atmosphere of the occasion.  Robin Hamilton rounded off  the proceedings by making a speech on behalf of the Rotary Club of Dunbar.  It was a day which the nine Scots will never forget.

The second phase of this project is to build a Crisis/Rescue Centre for vulnerable women and children on the floor above the VTC.  This will provide a safe haven and support centre for women and children rescued from trafficking or suffering from domestic abuse or other vulnerable issues.  Those using it will have easy access to the skills training centre on the ground floor to give them a new start in life.  Fund-raising for Phase two has already started and many Rotary Clubs have already committed funds towards this project.

After an unforgettable week in Kalimpong and Darjeeling, the Dunbar party moved on to Delhi, Agra and Jaipur where they visited many of the famous sights including the Taj Mahal.  Robin Hamilton described the trip as “An extraordinary experience.  We gained an fantastic insight into life in India, seeing amazing contrasts such as the poverty yet pride in a remote hill village on the border of Nepal to the teeming masses of Delhi and the incredible wealth and splendour of the temples and palaces.”