That’s where our partners at All Hands and Hearts came in. The organization’s goal is to efficiently and effectively addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. In the case of Nibugaun Basic School, that meant the reconstruction of the school with a safe, earthquake resilient design and construction in order to give disaster-affected students access to education and improve the chances of recovery for the students themselves and the overall community.
To achieve this, All Hands and Hearts, with support from The TreadRight Foundation, retrofit two buildings, four classrooms, new WaSH facilities, furniture, a playground, and a water filtration system were all also provided.
The school also has a new four-room building built by another organization. All structures, including toilet blocks, are reinforced red brick masonry with steel tube trusses and deep foundations for stability. The buildings are permanent and are expected to last for decades. These new, safe facilities will enable the school to successfully implement their curriculum, leading to an increased standard of education.
The community now has a school that they are demonstrably proud of and in which they feel secure. The school also received clean drinking water systems, sanitation facilities including handwashing stations, and electricity as needed. In Nepal, even before the earthquakes, these basic conveniences were by no means a given in remote public schools. Attendance is expected to rise now that the facilities have created such a “buzz” in the community.
All Hands and Hearts hired an English-speaking Nepali national to serve as Community Coordinator (CC) for each school project. These individuals were indispensable; first of all because being bilingual, they served as the obvious communications link between the community and All Hands and Hearts. The CCs were also assigned specific objectives to ensure community members were engaged in their own recovery on several levels, with the overall goal of instilling a sense of responsibility for the project’s success and building hope and
Hundreds of community members were engaged in educational, construction-related, or cross-cultural activities – involvement that has been shown to build a community’s sense of ownership in its own recovery, and to transfer important disaster preparedness information and skills which build resilience. In addition, the new buildings are the safest in the community, and will likely serve as evacuation centre in the case of future disasters. In short, the entire community now has hope in a better future.
A non-exhaustive list of community engagement activities:
• Community meetings where All Hands and Hearts could explain plans, challenges, etc., and where people could provide input and air concerns.
• Vibrant bulletin boards where information was posted.
• Fun events to bring volunteers together with the community’s children and families, such as movie nights, picnics, soccer matches, holiday celebrations.
• Trainings for the community – English classes, hygiene classes, first aid classes (the latter topics were sometimes covered in Nepali-language movies during movie nights)
• Trainings for the volunteers
Approximately 40 Nepali masons (including women) found employment and learned marketable new skill sets that they will bring into future, and potentially better, jobs. Part of the process involved making sure the masons were aware of and/or trained in earthquake resilient masonry, meaning they could incorporate rebar reinforcements and extra concrete bands in the walls. Each employee received a certificate of competency attesting to his or her skill level for use when seeking further employment. In this way, earthquake resilient construction methods will be passed along in future construction projects and disseminated beyond this community.
Some of the challenges faced were delays in excavation, power outages, water shortages, and trouble to find masons on the early stages of the program and late contractors. However, the team worked tirelessly to find creative solutions and the outcome was the early completion of the project along with further site developments, a playground and a community led tap project.
Once the school was completed, the All Hands & Hearts staff presented a palette of colors for the outside paint to the School Management Committee and asked them to choose the colors. The color they chose was Liberty Grey because they thought it would be the most durable color with so many small children and that this would last as long as possible.
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