I started out the week going to the Reformed Church of Nepal, Crossway. It was a great way to begin my time in Nepal. Attending this church helps to nourish me and is always a pleasure. Dinner with the Pastor Arbin Pokharel and his wife Bimila, Christian Reformed World Missions staff Troy and Faith Bierma, as well as Jun Eo and his wife was a nice reunion.
In Nuwakot, where the World Renew project takes place, I was very happy to see that the staff have devotions every morning. We have Christian and Hindu staff, and both attend these daily devotions. We are waiting to see how the Spirit of the Lord leads, but are setting the stage for him to work.
The highlight of these trips for me is the chance to go to the communities and visit the earthquake affected people we have helped and to see the progress that has been made since the disastrous April 25th, 2015 event. After many hurdles thirteen houses have been completed and are now occupied, with 112 more houses in various stages of construction. It has not been without significant challenges.
Each day, we had to travel on switch back roads, as they wind their way down the mountains. They can be quite harrowing to drive on.
In order to get construction supplies to some of the communities, World Renew helped to reinforce parts of the road with gabion walls that had been destroyed, to ensure that future landslides didn’t make the road impassable.
In the upper area of one community, the reconstruction faced problems because there was no road access at all to transport materials in. World Renew again supported the community in constructing a road nearly two kilometers long to ensure that supplies could make it there.
Building Houses on Steep Mountain Slopes
I’ve helped to manage World Renew projects in different countries where a lot of earthquake and typhoon resistant houses were built, but we’ve never had to build houses in a region with so many steep slopes. It requires more technical construction, plus it is hard to find flat land to build on. There is not a lot of space to build houses on in such a mountainous country.
Our engineers are engaged in helping prepare the sites to build houses. Due to the steep slope, deep holes have to be dug, sometimes up to five feet, to tie the 6 pillars of the house into the foundation. Some houses must be longer and narrower because there is not enough flat land or depth to the plot.
House owners are participating where they can, doing the hard work of demolishing the old damaged houses before we can begin reconstructing on the same site. In each community, World Renew is creating “batches”, which are groups of community members that work together to construct their homes. Each batch has a leader to oversee the construction, who received training on safe deconstruction and debris management.
Shortage of Masons
While I was in Nepal I explored why some houses had not started yet. As with any increase in demand, there is often a shortage of supply. Though World Renew trained 109 masons from the area to learn new earthquake resistant construction techniques, some have left to Katmandu to gain employment, as they are now marketable with the training they received.
A further challenge is that World Renew is only allowed to provide the construction materials and supplies, while beneficiaries are required to work on their own houses. However, many of the most vulnerable – the elderly, widowed, persons with disability and female headed households – have been unable to start. They have no one to help them with the labour required for construction, and they cannot afford to pay for skilled labour. World Renew is therefore looking to bring in volunteer construction teams, which the government is now allowing. This is something to celebrate, as there were barriers to this before!
It has been wonderful to see the earthquake resistant techniques that World Renew taught being applied. For example rebar, one of the main components that ensure sturdy construction, is being used in all the houses. Unfortunately, it is also one of the costliest. It is great that World Renew can provide these costly materials and supplies.
Before the monsoon comes, the country gets quite hot and streams dry up. In one area, there is no longer access to water for mixing the cement. World Renew plans to purchase 1800 metres of PVC pipe to bring water from a nearby river to two new 5000 litre tanks to facilitate this project.
I sure did a lot of climbing to visit houses on this trip. When I visited the community with the highest altitude, I climbed up to the uppermost highest house we are building. What a view. From there, you could see many houses under various stages of construction.
Despite the many challenges, the project is moving forward, and the community is very happy. While many other communities have only received one installment yet, World Renew has already provided up to three installments for some beneficiaries. World Renew has also provided much needed construction tools and engineers to monitor and support the technical work of the masons each day, and the transportation of all materials and supplies, which saves community members a lot of money.
With the “batch” approach, we are building a stronger community as everybody helps one another. The most vulnerable households work with others to ensure that everyone is able to rebuild together. I pray that the Nepali people will see the love of God through our deeds and understand that this love is the reason that we walk with them through this tough time in their lives.
Thank you to our partners who walk with World Renew and support us in the important work of reconstruction!