At ‘changeover’ on our return from trek, before our new teams deployed to their designated villages for the first community phase, Sashwhat Dhakel, a Civil Engineer with Build Up Nepal, gave all the Venturers a brief introduction to the organisation’s work.
Once we had arrived in the villages we received practical training on making the special Compressed Stabilized Earth Bricks (CSEB) Build Up Nepal are pioneering following proven success in other earthquake susceptible countries such as India, Pakistan and Iran.
The bricks are made from easily accessible and cheap materials – local soil, sand and just 10% cement – enabling the local communities to replicate their production onsite without any external or financial support. They create 90% fewer CO2 emissions compared to fired bricks and the man-powered brick-making machines are easily transportable to the remote villages, some of which are only accessible by narrow suspension bridges. The programme also encourages entrepreneurship amongst the local people (the machines are currently owned by Raleigh, but the communities are in the process of purchasing them so they will eventually own them outright) – giving them new skills they can continue to use and transfer to others, providing much needed income generation opportunities within the local area.
Each brick has two holes in which in which steel re-bars (‘re’ for ‘reinforcing’) are fed and which have raised edges so they also slot together. This creates an ‘earthquake resilient’ frame. As Aasish Gautam, another Civil Engineer at Build Up Nepal, explained to us: “There is no such thing as an earthquake proof building, but the bricks are much stronger than the traditional mud and would give the family longer to escape, therefore decreasing the chance of casualties.”
As to who receives our help in building their new home, this falls to another local NGO – Goreto Gorkha, which carries out all the community liaison on behalf of Raleigh via the local Village Development Committee (VDC) and community leaders. The beneficiaries are all earthquake victims who have been living in cramped conditions in temporary shelters for the last two years.
The beneficiaries of our first house, the Chhnal family, were working in their fields when the earthquake struck. Their house was completely destroyed and for the next three weeks they were living in their buffalo shed. During this time they built a temporary shelter with the help of the community. They have been living in it ever since.
When visiting the Chhnal’s home, we were taken aback by how little they have, yet despite this they still produced tea for us all, treating us to the famous Nepali welcome with smiling faces. Seeing their current living conditions really brought home the impact of the work we are doing, which despite sometimes being challenging, is so obviously incredibly worthwhile.
Hum Bahadur, the Buwa (father) of the family, told us: “In winter it was very difficult to live here and with the monsoon coming we are excited that with the help of the Raleigh volunteers and other villagers, we will soon be able to move into our new home.”
Main photo shows a completed house in Chapthok, started during in the first cycle of Expedition (16I) in Nepal last summer. Photo: Lisa
26 March – end of Phase 2 changeover
28 March – deploy to Phase 3: community