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.
On 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OCTOBER UPDATE 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Please consider supporting The Dadagaun Village Project earthquake relief fund to rebuild village homes. Every dollar received will be transferred directly to our bank account in Nepal to distribute to those most in need.
Congratulations DVP supporters. We have raised an amazing $AU 21,400 to contribute to rebuilding in Dadagaun village…way beyond our initial expectations!
Our local fundraising has been bolstered by $AU 8,300 from the USA, the most recent event organised by Upslope Brewing Co and Global Works, raising over $AU 5,200. Awesome, you folks! Our colleagues in the UK/ Nepal (Escape2Nepal) and the USA (Trek of Your Life, Annatta World Health and Education Outreach, Go Philanthropic Foundation) are also busy fundraising and collecting impressive donations. Together it’s looking like we’ll soon be approaching six figures for Dadagaun – a phenomenal team effort!
The next step is assessment of needs in the village in order to distribute aid equitably. There are 72 houses most of which we are told, need rebuilding. We remain hopeful a representative with a background in development or building can visit Dadagaun and assess the situation on the ground. In the meantime we have developed an application form for the villagers themselves to identify what they need. We are looking at employing a local person for admin support during this information gathering phase. It’s a start in a long complicated process and any offers of expertise will be welcome. It is unknown when to expect any financial assistance from the Nepalese government and how much that might be.
Thankfully, the orphanage in Dadagaun is being well supported by other charities and rebuilding is nearly complete. The villagers have managed to construct temporary shelters from tin sheeting and tarps. Not optimal during the current monsoon rains and unlikely to be comfortable during January and February, the coldest months of winter with low temperatures consistently around zero. Therefore, our focus will now be on rebuilding village homes – supporting families to stay together is a priority for DVP. There are too many abandoned children in Nepalese orphanages already.
The purchase order for 4 mechanical compressed earth brick-making machines has at last been placed. Steve Webster from Escape2Nepal has spent hours following through the whys and wherefores to make importing from China possible – without paying an arm and a leg for customs/import duty. The advantages of these machines are:-
~ they use recycled earth from the mudbricks of the old dwellings
~ the villagers can make and stockpile bricks themselves on site, without electricity
~ the addition of 10% cement to the crumbled earth makes for a super sturdy brick
~ the shape of the brick allows for reinforcement with concrete beams horizontally and steel rods vertically through the walls, thus increasing the earthquake tolerance of the building.
~ the bricks will interlock so mortar may not be necessary, reducing cost and need for skilled labour.
~ building costs will be significantly reduced compared to buying concrete blocks, the alternative to the previous fragile stone and mud conglomerations.
~ aesthetically, mudbrick cottages will be more appealing than concrete houses and more authentic to unique traditional Nepalese building style. We will try to encourage traditional decorative timber features as well. It is important to support local culture and attract tourists back to once again embrace Nepal.
Here is a Dropbox link to a video of the brick making machine being used: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8wfpp38sym07gwt/video%20of%20simple%20manual%20brick%20making%20machinehelping%20illers%20help%20themselves.mp4?dl=0
Below is a Youtube video of a house being constructed using the bricks:
Heard about Tom? He’s in the loop! Tom Crees lived in Dadagaun from the mid 1990’s until 2005. An architect and project manager who built what is now Green Valley Resort in Dadagaun, Tom is rallying to the cause gathering support from Rotary Clubs in Goulburn, NSW and their sister club in Kantipur, Nepal. Hopefully Tom will be able to make a visit to Dadagaun and help to co-ordinate the rebuilding effort – perfect skill set. Tom has a deep knowledge of the village, the people, their thinking and their lifestyle and he has contacts to assist on the ground. Another very welcome partner in the growing network of support for Dadagaun.
School resumed mid-June but the children were too nervous to go inside the building. Their parents insisted they have classes in tents even though the school structure sustained zero damage. Entirely understandable emotions with the daily, quite significant aftershocks. The rock wall between the upper and lower playgrounds tumbled in places and is being replaced by a railing fence. Many thanks to Food4Everyone for providing USD1,000 for this. Last week the school building was officially certified as being safe and now only the youngest continue to have classes in tents.
Looking ahead, the tremors seem to be diminishing with days in a row having no aftershocks. Hooray! There is much to co-ordinate… we will plod on with diligence and devotion. Always happy to hear your point of view. Contributions continue to come in – we are starting to receive full money tins for “a Dollar a Brick” campaign. Entertainment books will continue to raise money for DVP until the end of August. If you want to take advantage of the bargains please go to https://www.entertainmentbook.com.au/orderbooks/9n26884
Other pledges of support have come from a Brisbane law firm and a Gold Coast Rotary club. It is feeling very positive from this end. Just wish we could relieve the daily discomforts of the villagers more quickly.
In the wake of Nepal’s devastating earthquake the small pretty village of Dadagaun has suffered substantial damage. The orphanage and many village homes, including the headmaster’s, have cracked and crumbled walls, holes in roofs, damage which has left them completely unsafe to live in. In the words of the orphanage manager: “Our bulding is very badly damage and is make rock in to soil”.
Miraculously, no serious injuries have been reported. However, now the people are sleeping outside under makeshift lean-to’s and tarps. The ground is hard and damp, the rains of an early monsoon adding to their discomfort and fear. Landslides are a threat and aftershocks from the earthquake rumble on daily. These are people who we have assisted for nearly a decade to advance their living standards and their kids’ education. They are poor and without resources. We cannot turn our backs on them now. They need immediate help. Please donate to the Dadagaun Earthquake Relief Fund.
The Dadagaun Village Project Facebook page has updates.
Dadagaun Village Project is an education support program initiated by Christine and Kurt Marschner after travelling in Nepal in 2007. As middle aged, middle class Australians we can see how far a little compassion and charity will go towards improving future opportunities for a small group of our world’s children growing up in Dadagaun village, Nepal.
Our primary goal is to assist Dadagaun school as it expands and broadens its approach to education. We wholly support the school’s philosophy: “The future of Nepal is in the hands of our children…the future of our children is in the hands of our teachers.”