NEW YEAR in NEPAL, 2074

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Written on April 17, 2017 by Chrissy & Kurt

April 9th was the first day of the year 2074 in Nepal. Happy New Year to all our friends and colleagues! For Dadagaun let’s hope it is a year of peace and progress.
20170316_113652_jpegNearly two years after the devastating earthquake of 2015 there has recently been a great step forward by way of the government approving compressed earth brick technology for reconstruction. See posts on Facebook. This advance, plus the completion of training provided by Build Up Nepal has given confidence to some families in Dadagaun who were reticent about using CEBs for reconstruction of their own homes.20170316_113111_jpeg A “model house” owned by Dadagaun School Principal, Dhorje Tamang was constructed during the training to demonstrate block making and building methods. It is nearing completion now and hopefully will provide a comfortable home for the upcoming monsoon period. Vertical and horizontal reinforcement using iron rods and concrete is critical to the strength of the walls and capacity of the building to withstand future earthquakes.IMG_20170401_155313 Other families are gradually following Dhorje’s lead. The photos here are of Dhorje’s reconstruction and another house (no. 61) commenced in March.
Initial funding grants of USD 500 from our international pool has been distributed to over 20 families and hopefully more will start applying soon and a second round of funding can be offered. IMG_20170401_155341
At Dadagaun School there have been several staff changes with teachers Parsuram, Ajay and Bhola recently moving on to new positions. All will be greatly missed as will Saraswati when she leaves to be married soon – congratulations and good luck Saru! Ajay has secured a teaching position at the prestigious St Xavier’s College in Budhanilkantha and continues to study for his B Ed supported by a DVP scholarship – wonderful steps forward along his very promising career path.Ajay with kids.FB Bhola will teach in Thamel at Rehdon Higher Secondary School and has said he’d welcome to his home volunteers who want to teach English with him.
Not all teachers will be replaced as salary rationalising is underway in order to manage the modest budget for teachers’ wages.Bhola at school.FB.edit This seems warranted and timely as student numbers remain low due to the natural catchment capacity of the school’s location. There are approximately 80 students across the Early Childhood classes up to Year 7. Nine teachers, an aide and a specialist Music teacher has been a bit excessive in the past! Good luck to the new teachers – you have a golden opportunity to be part of a well-resourced, forward thinking school community with lots of international interest and support!
Adult education classes in English continue to be held at the school after hours. Dhorje’s daughter Paru takes the classes most evenings mainly attended by village girls and ladies. With a focus on reading, the internet (especially Facebook), is a great motivator!
Aud & Barry.2012Last but not least, a word of thanks to long time DVP supporters Audrey and Barry for their funding of this year’s school text books. Your consistent practical contributions with computer support, secondary scholarships and now text book funding have been invaluable. Dhanyabad!

DECEMBER UPDATE

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Written on December 20, 2016 by Chrissy & Kurt

After a busy season of festivals and tourism during October/ November in Nepal, attention in Dadagaun has returned to rebuilding. Information is sketchy coming to me but here is the news as I understand it. Anyone with more accurate information is welcome to contribute.
The connection between Dadagaun Village and Build Up Nepal has been established now with a 16 day training course on the horizon for 10 committed villagers. Their new skills and knowledge will hopefully then transpire through to other families. This training is to be sponsored by a group from Japan organised through Build Up Nepal. It is to address compressed earth block making techniques using the machines we imported from China – getting the right mix of recycled earth, sand and cement is paramount and Build Up Nepal have the experience and technical knowledge to guide this process. Some of the blocks previously made in Dadagaun were apparently not strong enough. Written approval from the government for the bricks will be sought, presumably so that the families who use them will be able to access the $US2,000 government rebuilding grants. Septic tank from VDC
The whole process continues to be long and arduous, however the local government authority (VDC) has recently contributed septic tanks and toilet pans to those homes in need. I understand the Build Up Nepal training course will also address house designs using the blocks, and building techniques that incorporate sound principles for earthquake tolerance. Overall, this progress seems really positive.
Building site preparation has commenced at the Principal, Dhorje Tamang’s house as the photo here shows. It is hoped building here will provide a model for others.Dhorje footings.2 Some households have already undertaken repairs and rebuilding using other materials such as second hand bricks from demolished buildings in Kathmandu. Financial support from our group continues at Rs 50,000 per household with monies from USA and UK recently being transferred into the Dadagaun Village Rebuilding Committee bank account. When this is distributed, the money from Australia will be transferred. In the meantime the Aussie account continues to accrue $AU 50 or so per month interest. Many thanks for recent donations from Nudgee College and Janine’s efforts with organising donations from sales of the 2016 Entertainment Books.
During October/ November visitors to the school provided valuable input to upgrade the computer facilities. Teresa from the UK who taught as a volunteer in 2013 and raised funds for the completion of the computer room/ library in 2014, has now donated funds for new computer equipment including an upgrade to the networked system and a more economical printer.Computer room Dec.2.Dhorje FB Guillaume from France who has volunteered at the school over recent years helped with repairs and the installation of the new system. It’s not only the students and teachers who benefit, the local village women receive some rudimentary computer training at the school in the evenings. Dadagaun villagers are very grateful to all who have contributed financially and by actioning these wonderful innovations. There are few schools in Nepal as well equipped with technology as Dadagaun and certainly no government school receiving so much independent support.
Sydney Frymire from Trek of Your Life, USA also visited Dadagaun again this October/ November. Her trekkers spent time at the school on a sewing project to teach village girls and women how to make washable sanitary napkins. Thanks to Neeru Webster from Shivapuri Cottages for getting this project up and running – hopefully production will continue and maybe even have a future commercial potential. This is a really beneficial initiative to the village women.Sewing.edit
The ongoing support of Sydney and her group for the music program at the school, financing a specialist teacher and supply of instruments, has also been a highly prized contribution to the school community. Nepalese people love music and dance and the children in Dadagaun light up at Music time. Some of Sydney’s photos follow.
Many thanks to all supporters this year. Let’s hope continued improvements to the living situation in Dadagaun can be achieved in 2017.

AUGUST NEWS

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Written on December 20, 2016 by Chrissy & Kurt

MONEY HAS STARTED TO ARRIVE
The first instalment of DVP’s funds for earthquake rebuilding have arrived in Nepal. Grants of NRP 50,000 from the international pool of support were paid to eleven households by early July and our funds should support another ten. With our current bank balance we will be able to make two or three more such transfers.
As well, the Rs 200,000 per household promised by the Nepalese government for rebuilding seems to be closer to reaching Dadagaun families. Our assistant in the village has reported:”The government officials have finished collecting the data of earthquake victims. They have revealed that they will be here after 35 days for land reforms.” Not too sure what this means exactly, but it seems to be a positive step in a process that will be done the government’s way, in the government’s time.
Building materials are being collected as the monsoon rains bucket down. Let’s hope a surge of building can occur during the kinder months of September – November before the icy chills of winter.

May Happenings

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Written on May 16, 2016 by Chrissy & Kurt

There have been highs and lows in Dadagaun over recent weeks. A sombre mood was felt around the whole country on April 25th and May 12th, a year after the earthquakes that rocked Nepal to its foundations. Despondency has followed with the ongoing delays in distributing aide to facilitate rebuilding. To quote Dadagaun’s English teacher, Bhola Dulal: “It seems to be delayed of restructuring campaign due to many circumstances such as political instability,less priority towards victims and credit taking phenomena with leaders.As a result,people are suffering from many psychological problem,created by government.Millions of rupees have been afforded in the name of earthquake victims but achievement is worthless.” Hopefully things will change soon.

Teachers' certificates.2.croppedOn a brighter note, Dadagaun school hosted colourful celebrations for its 25th Silver Jubilee anniversary on May 1st. Guests of Honour, speeches, awarding of certificates, singing and dance performances from the children all added to the excitement. What wonderful achievements the school has made from its humble beginnings with a handful of students in a tent. Congratulations to the founders, the Principal and teachers, the School Management Committee, the students and to the many donors who have generously given their time, terrific resources and financial support.
.Performers

In the village rebuilding is slowly on the move with three households now having completed their brick making and five having begun construction work. Word has it that the VDC (government Village Development Committee) are on the way to assess Dadagaun later this month to confirm the damage to each house and to discuss building plans and designs in order to start distributing the Rs 200,000 government grants (USD 1,800) in July/ August. This should pave the way for a big increase in building activity as the villagers have been hesitant to make a start on plans that are not VDC approved – for fear of missing out on these significant grants.

We will be watching with interest as school principal, Dhorje Tamang proceeds with construction using the compressed earth blocks (CEB) in a steel framed house design by Tom Crees, sponsored by Australian and Nepali Rotary Clubs (see earlier posts for more background details). Other networking will hopefully link the village with ABARI, a “socially and environmentally committed research, design and construction firm that examines, encourages, and celebrates the vernacular architectural tradition of Nepal”. They have produced a comprehensive manual on building with CEB which is pitched at village level using simple English and Nepali with clear illustrations. It provides among other things, great guidance for foundations, reinforcement and bracing. See: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/557d73e9e4b05d6e3927abdc/t/5723041f1d07c02f9c
17f053/1461912781274/2016.04.25_Compressed+earth+block.pdf

For an overview on the CEBs and an excellent view of the horizontal and vertical reinforcing see : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCJf6VjEAtA

Administratively, our team is expanding with the employment of Saru Tamang to keep records and spreadsheets and manage the distribution of our collective funds. It has been decided to offer an initial amount of Rs 50,000 (USD 470, AUD 650) to each household for reimbursement of building materials dependent on presentation of receipts for purchases. Once the level of building activity increases and we have a better idea of how many people will apply for our support we can offer a second round of grants. Steve Webster from Escape2Nepal and Lilu KC from GoPhilanthropic continue to meet with villagers and oversee our operations.

The Ongoing Frustrations of Life in Nepal

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Written on March 12, 2016 by Chrissy & Kurt

This, when the weather is finally reasonable, the bricks are stacked and the workers are willing…..http://nepalitimes.com/article/nation/no-relief-for-earthquake-victims,2926

On the Up

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Written on February 23, 2016 by Chrissy & Kurt

Good progress is being made in Dadagaun in recent weeks. Please see this site for a lovely video on the process of making the compressed earth blocks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rljUc50vPec
Three of the four block making machines are now being put to use in the village with several households making bricks and allowing them to cure for a month before being used for reconstruction. Approximately 5,000 bricks are needed for a simple building and sums have been done to show the recycled bricks will reduce the costs to purchase bricks by almost two thirds. The villagers have worked out the optimal proportion of earth:cement to use, and as the video shows, are approaching the task in a systematic manner. Some employed labour is being used if villagers can afford it.
Village meeting

An assistant has been hired to attend local meetings, feed back to us, co-ordinate records regarding each house’s building plans and progress, view receipts for building materials, distribute our funds etc. The combined international fundraising effort looks like being able to give each household around USD 1,000. A simple single-storey home is estimated to cost around USD 7,000. Household profiles are still being developed to show level of need for support. If the building plan conforms to the Nepalese government guidelines the homeowners theoretically should be able to access another USD 1,800 in government relief, though there is an element of doubt that this will materialise. The villagers have agreed to help each other out with loans for those who don’t have the means to get started. We will support them with rebuilding costs even if they wish to use materials other than the recycled bricks, as long as plans, budgets and receipts for materials are in order.

All in all, an impressive co-ordinated effort is emerging. This is welcome progress as things were looking a little desperate for a while there. Now with good weather ahead we are anticipating a continuation of this positive progress. If Nepal teaches us anything it is that patience and acceptance are always necessary. Nepalese endurance and tolerance are outstanding. The villagers are learning a great deal too, about planning and organisation, teamwork, responsibility and accountability. Those who have made a start are inspiring those who are more passive. It is a wonderful connection that has been made between individuals across the globe and all donors must be thanked once again for their generosity.

November news

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Written on December 2, 2015 by Chrissy & Kurt

Things are not good in Nepal. You may have heard news about political issues that have resulted in major civil unrest, violence, death, and blockades at the Indian border since September. The site of the blockades is the supply route for essential commodities such as petrol, gas, medical supplies, building materials. For excellent insights into the ongoing situation see the link in the column on the right further down this page entitled “Commentary & news updates post earthquake”.

Nepal is on a downward spiral, grinding to a halt as its lifeline is being cut. Winter is on the doorstep, homes are still not rebuilt and illness is on the increase. The only thing doing well is the black market where goods sometimes become available at inflated prices that are plainly unaffordable for the average Nepali. Seven months after the earthquake the Nepal government has finally lifted restrictions preventing more than $4 billion of foreign aide from reaching building programs – though the locals are cynical that the money will not, in reality, reach its targets. The government with its new Prime Minister and new Constitution seems to be ineffective and chaotic.
IMG_20151119_100539[1]
Dadagaun is feeling the consequences of the crisis. Building materials such as cement and reinforcing iron are very expensive and in short supply just when rebuilding is about to swing into action. (A date has been set to start brickmaking today, 5th December). Transport of materials from Kathmandu to Dadagaun requires truck hire and petrol – also expensive and difficult to organise.

To add to their woes, the lack of fuel for cooking or warmth has taken on a new urgency as the weather gets colder and the villagers continue to make do in tin shelters. Winter in this mountain village is biting – bringing with it increased sickness for all ages. You can imagine how hygiene is compromised with no ready access to hot water. AND the supply of timber for firewood has all but dried up. It was always illegal to gather wood from the local forests of Shivapuri National Park but authorities are no longer turning a blind eye. They are now cracking down on anyone caught and imposing big penalties.

The concept of exploring alternative technologies such as wind, solar or hydro for power (or even briquettes from agricultural waste for fuel) has always been on the table, but the stars have never lined up as far as having the right person on hand, financial support and a willingness on the part of the villagers to consider new ideas or break with traditional ways. The opportunity still exists if anybody out there wants to run with the idea!

One glimmer of hope is the upcoming visit by Paul and Sarah, Aussie teachers who have helped at Dadagaun School on several visits over the last few years. Paul has a $500 donation with him and a goal to organise a truckload of firewood that the government claims to have available in Kathmandu – unfortunately, not for free. If successful, this firewood will be distributed among the villagers and hopefully will alleviate some of their discomfort for a while. Let’s hope other volunteer groups visiting soon will also be able to assist with some of these issues.
Sept 10. edit

Sarah and Paul will also help at the school, following on the work that French volunteer Guillaume undertook during his 8 week visit. Guillaume achieved great things for the school by networking the computers and updating anti-virus programs, helping to implement an English enrichment program for struggling students, developing a time-efficient marking system for exams, helping with the Nursery planning documents and being a support in many classes especially English. Bravo Guillaume!

The children have replanted the garden at the school. Their giggles and chatter rise on the wind as always and inspire hope for the future in an otherwise fairly grim situation.

Nov 2. edit12308819_1055696747814771_8821042347918496910_n.edit

October Update

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Written on December 2, 2015 by Chrissy & Kurt

OCTOBER UPDATE
IMG_1230.edit October saw several groups of volunteers visit Dadagaun. Sarah and her team from Bridge 2 (UK) did a wonderful job of rebuilding the Children’s Home/ Orphanage. Not only did they rebuild the sleeping and living rooms so badly damaged in the earthquake, they renovated the bathrooms with new plumbing, cleaned and replaced water tanks and held a health camp. The children were happy to leave their temporary tent shelters as the last of the monsoon rains pelted down. They will be warm and secure in the upcoming winter.
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Maggie from Food 4 Everyone (Australia) provided finance for serious veggie growing at the Children’s Home – soil, seedlings and hothouse building materials. And the crops are booming!
Along with donations raised by Steve from Escape 2 Nepal, Maggie also helped finance new wire mesh fences at the school. These were a real safety issue after the previous stone wall was damaged in the quakes – the drop between the playgrounds looked unforgiving.
Fence.crop.IMG_0387
Sydney from Trek of Your Life (USA) made her annual pilgrimage to Nepal and brought with her a donated laptop for the Early Childhood Program. We have been working with the Nursery and Kindergarten teachers on their lesson plans and resources for some time now. Having a dedicated computer for these classes will make life so much easier. Sydney has also fundraised for another year of the Music program, providing salary for a specialist teacher and money for traditional instruments. Music lessons.2
The children are thriving on this opportunity to learn the music that is such an inherent part of their culture. Another fundraising concert in Kathmandu is planned for Spring 2016.
Sydney was also in Dadagaun to witness the arrival of the brick-making machines. Hooray! Steve’s patient negotiations with the supplier in China and officials in Nepal has finally paid off. Soon production will start and decisions will be made about how much support we can offer each village family.
4.Brick machine unloading.crop
The combined fundraising efforts of Escape2 Nepal (UK, USA, Nepal), Trek of Your Life, Anatta World Health and Go Philanthropic (all USA) and our own Dadagaun Village Project (Australia, USA and Germany) has produced a significant total. It will be a big help to the villagers especially those who eke out a living on the land.

So sorry October’s update is late. November news will be out in just a few days after today’s meeting in the village. Stay tuned…
More photos on the Facebook page.

Double the Money!

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Written on November 25, 2015 by Chrissy & Kurt

Zande Law cropped
Thanks go to Tilly, Hayden and the Zande Law Team for raising money for Dadagaun Village Project’s Earthquake Rebuilding Fund in the North Lakes College Fun Run recently. The team came in second in a tough competition and raised $300 in sponsorship money. Topping it up Zande Law firm matched the amount so we were able to bank $600 for the rebuilding effort. That’s a lot of bags of cement in Nepal. Well done folks!

Progress Update, September 2015

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Written on September 13, 2015 by Chrissy & Kurt

Unlike the immediacy of the devastation after April’s earthquake, progress towards recovery in Nepal is gradual. Dadagaun village has formed a Rebuilding Committee comprised of four village representatives, including School Principal, Dhorje Tamang, plus Steve Webster from Shivapuri Cottage and Lilu KC, employed as a Liaison Officer for Go Philanthropic in Kathmandu. Lilu takes minutes and distributes them to several groups such as Dadagaun Village Project who are donating to the rebuilding effort. It has been decided to expand the committee by the addition of two female village representatives.
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The initial meeting in August discussed information from a questionnaire we developed to gather insights about each household in Dadagaun and their rebuilding needs: family members, employment status, type of house (free-standing or semi-detached), home to single or multi families, rebuilding needs, etc. 100 forms were filled out by villagers and neighbours. The committee decided on criteria for support, prioritising homes that have collapsed and need rebuilding, above those that just need repairs. The committee undertook responsibility for purchasing building materials and distributing them according to the agreed criteria. The villagers will be made aware of the levels of support and will be required to sign for receipt of materials. Transparency, accountability and an unbiased, criteria-driven approach were recognised as being of utmost importance.
It was agreed that an engineer needs to be involved for assessment and advice. Preserving the aesthetics and character of the Dadagaun village was also considered important. This is a truly valid point as it is vital to attract tourism back to Nepal and Dadagaun offers a unique village experience within easy reach of Kathmandu.
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Perfect timing for Tom Crees to arrive! Tom is an architect and project manager and has a deep connection with Dadagaun through his decade of living there in the 1990s – 2000s. Tom has been rallying support for rebuilding in Dadagaun through Rotary Clubs in his home town of Goulburn, NSW, Australia. Tom attended the second meeting of the Dadagaun village rebuilding committee on 4th September along with local engineering colleagues and representatives from Kantipur Rotary Club, Khatmandu. At this meeting it was decided to develop a map of the village with the houses numbered. The map will incorporate information from the questionnaire along with results from a recent assessment undertaken by the Nepalese government, rating village homes on their safety for occupation. It will also include photos of the physical damage to homes such as Tom’s photos included in this post.
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Tom raised the concept of a modular house design using steel frames that can be easily transported and assembled by untrained people – similar in concept to the “flat-pack” approach. It could be used for single or two storey dwellings, with verandahs, or traditional barduli, which are functionally important spaces for village life. He also raised the issue of trying to incorporate smoke-free cooking areas, bathrooms attached to the main house, roofing insulation, and solar powered electricity and water heating. While these innovations will raise the health and comfort levels of village life considerably, costing will be a critical issue.
It was decided that a local village committee be formed to be responsible for decisions relating to the many physical/building issues that will arise. This team should involve representatives from the lower, middle and upper village zones and youth volunteers to assist with heavy lifting etc.
The Kantipur Rotary Club is willing to become actively involved through liaison with the local committee, a means to transfer funds and an offer to undertake health camps.
The brick making machines will soon arrive in Kathmandu and Steve has payment, import and customs issues under control. A job well done! The challenge ahead will be how to incorporate the “lay-person-friendly” steel frames Tom has suggested with the “lay-person-friendly” reinforced compressed earth bricks. We are lucky to have architects and engineers on the team! More as it comes to hand.
PS. Our Aussie/ US fundraising dollars are quietly earning interest in a dedicated bank account – $100 extra dollars to date!