An Insight: Swiss plumbers visit Nepal

Clean drinking water and hygiene are the basis for healthy living and successful development. A statement that applies just as much to Helvetas as to Swiss-based multinational Geberit.
BY: Astrid Rana - 12. February 2020

Geberit, a globally operating multinational company in the field of sanitary products, and Helvetas formed a social engagement partnership in 2010. Since then, the company has been supporting Helvetas with its public relations campaign - a significant way to sensitize the Swiss population about the work being done in the partner countries.

To further deepen this partnership, a program called ‘Change of Perspectives’ was launched in 2016, where Swiss plumbers got an insight into the work of Nepali plumbers and their day-to-day family lives. In accordance with this program, two Swiss plumbers visit Nepal and observe and understand the work and lifestyles of the Nepali people in the same profession.

Interesting and diverse experiences

Each year, the Swiss plumbers reported on their return that they were deeply impressed by the warm welcome and hospitality that they experienced.

Roland Alt, 39 years of age, from the canton of Luzern was one of the first Swiss plumbers who mentioned that the visit was very fruitful. He learned about how Nepali plumbers work, the kind of tools they have, how long their education program actually takes, their challenges and learnings.  

Thanujan Thangavelu, Krishna Thapa, Radhika Thapa, Roland Alt, Nepal 2017

After a one week stay in Nepal, Roland and his colleague 23-year-old colleague from Bern, Thanujan Thangavelu (called: Thanu) said that they both were impressed by the lifestyle and the ways of working of the Nepali plumbers. “The people do not possess a lot and do struggle for basic needs, but they seem to live happily and peacefully.”

Tobias Probst, 41, from Bern and Ralf Betschard, 23, from canton Schwyz who visited Nepal in 2018 stated that they were impressed by the simple lifestyle of the host family and the happy children, who actually did not have not much to play with. Tobias specially mentioned the family's great joy when they were surprised with a ‘Swiss chocolate dessert’. He said: “On the construction site, I was immediately impressed by the simplicity and also by the heavy work going on. There was no construction crane in front of any building! Everything was either carried or pulled up by rope. Many women have to work very hard. The city itself gave me great insight. Sewage simply runs into the public water, there is lots of garbage on the street or in water streams. There are many still visible traces of the earthquake that happened in 2015.” Both, for Tobias and Ralf, this was a “once in a lifetime journey” that has left deep emotional impressions.

Karna's Family with Ralf Betschart and Tobias Probst, Nepal 2018

The two plumbers, Christian Theiler and Markus Herrli who visited Nepal in November 2019 expressed their gratitude to have had the opportunity to visit the plumbers and their families. The main message which they took home: It seems that we Europeans need so many more things to live happily.

Markus and Christian also had the opportunity to meet a woman plumber, Samjhana Shrestha (seen in the top photo in this article), who invited the Swiss to her house and to the construction site. She mentioned that this profession is dominated by men.  Among them, she is the only female plumber and that makes her proud.

On the side of the hosting Nepali families; they expressed their gratitude to have had the opportunity to host Swiss plumbers and learn more about the Swiss way of life.

The exchange shed light upon professional, cultural and lifestyle differences and how the vocational training keeps the system of this exchange up and running in an efficient manner.