Rob Tournour headed back to Nepal this week to ensure the final bricks will be placed by December for a school he is rebuilding.
Once that’s completed, Tournour has his sights set on the next project for the non-profit society he launched following the earthquakes that ravaged Nepal in April and May 2015.
It all began when Tournour was having a coffee and saw a full-page photo in a newspaper showing the destruction the quakes left in their wake.
“Maybe it was the bricks, but it just reached out to me,” said Tournour, co-owner of Rob Tournour Masonry. “I put the photo up on the wall at work for a couple of weeks and tried to figure out what I could do to help with the rebuilding.”
He eventually approached a friend, Randy Jones, who he knew had been in Nepal a few weeks after the earthquakes, to discuss what they could do.
They started reaching out to people and in less than a month had made some connections, and booked flights in October.
Tournour took advantage of the opportunity to organize a trek to the base camp of Mount Everest, fulfilling a lifelong dream. He then set out to tour the regions hit hardest by the quakes. “We didn’t nail down a specific site before we headed home, but we were really inspired to make a difference after what we had seen.”
“We started to reach out to people and had our first board meeting in November,” Tournour explained. “We kept in touch with the people we had met in Nepal and went back in June.” After visiting a few more areas, they came upon Aapchaur, a small, remote village in the district of Nuwakot, about a four-hour drive from Kathmandu that hadn’t received any aid.
“We knew we had a project then,” Tournour said. They started meeting every month and began the process of setting up a non-profit society, with only about $1,000 raised at that point. “Once a few board members made the trip and saw the need for themselves, the passion grew.”
Tournour has been in construction for 20 years, so he had lots of contacts in the region to approach for funding. “A lot of people, businesses and companies have really stepped up to help out. Stew Young and the City of Langford were very supportive. Momentum is building,” he said.
They registered the non-profit under the name Another Brick in Nepal, and raised $15,000 within a couple of months, making it possible to start rebuilding the school, a bare bones structure with three classrooms and no washrooms for about 70 students before the quake. Nick Versteeg, a filmmaker from Cowichan Bay who had been shooting in Nepal when the quakes stuck, approached Tournour in March of this year. He had heard about the project and asked if he could feature Another Brick in Nepal in his documentary.
Tournour returned to the village with Versteeg a month later, and was finally able to officially let the villagers know they were going to rebuild the school. During the trip he met Bishnu Pandey, a structural engineer and teacher at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and who grew up in Nepal and has taken a year off to assist with the rebuilding. “He’s been a tremendous inspiration,” Tournour said.
Another Brick in Nepal has raised about $35,000 of its budget of $45,000 so far. The society is hosting a fundraiser that Tournour hopes will not only cover the balance, but provide enough to kick-start the next project. “Nine-thousand schools were damaged or destroyed in 2015,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe the state of some of the villages, especially in the more remote areas. There is no one there to help. We want to keep the ball rolling and build two more schools in 2018.”
The first Another Brick in the Wall fundraiser takes place Monday, Nov. 27 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Glo Restaurant and Lounge. Tickets are $30 per person, and includes tapas, a beverage, a chance to win some great draw prizes and a 50/50 draw. The silent auction features a guitar signed by Burton Cummings, Sante Spa services, Nepali art, Brick in the Wall calendars, Nepali scarves, toques and other great items.