The community phase of expedition did not just see Raleigh venturers building new houses to replace those damaged by the 2015 earthquake. Thanks to a partnership with BNP Paribas (Suisse) SA it also involved a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme. It is an important part of Raleigh International’s work, especially in a country where childhood mortality from diarrhoeal illness still remains high.
Part of the work is around behaviour change, which meant Wash, Sanitation and Hygiene sessions were delivered in the first community phase of expedition. Handwashing is the most important step in the prevention of diarrhoeal illness and was therefore an essential teaching session. In Baltar the venturers designed a variety of lessons for schoolchildren of various ages. These ranged from a song and dance covering the seven steps of handwashing – a good chance for the international volunteers to practice their Nepalese! – to games with flour and glitter representing the germs that cling to the hands without proper washing.
Another teaching session for the schoolchildren focused on tooth brushing. Colourful posters were used as visual aids along with a demonstration of the proper technique. As a learning tool, and a reinforcement of the importance of regular tooth brushing, toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste were also provided for all school pupils.
Teaching sessions also continued outside the classroom. The venturers in Baltar got a pleasant surprise when the 13-year-old leader of the local children’s group approached them one evening, asking for a session on how to keep their community clean. In a touching show of maturity and awareness, a dozen children sat down with the venturers to discuss awareness raising, litter picks, construction of litter bins and other ways to keep their village clean.
In the second community phase of expedition, venturers took a hands-on approach as BNP Paribas (Suisse) SA funded the construction of 18 new toilets, 6 in each of the three villages where venturers were based. Many of the previous structures were damaged in the 2015 earthquake and some families have been using ‘longdrops’ – holes in the ground surrounded by improvised screens – ever since. The implications of this go beyond physical discomfort, as the shame of not having a working toilet is such that it can lead to exclusion from voting and participation in community events.
As the communities selected the beneficiaries and sourced materials, the Raleigh venturers had a chance to pick up their spades again as they dug the waste pits for the 18 new toilets, most of which are now complete. Given Raleigh’s focus on community empowerment and sustainable development, it was heartening to see the work continue even as the venturers left.