For the past months the main project at the Kathmandu base has been the 50 Homes project. All Hands Volunteers got the funding to build 50 transitional and earthquake safe homes. These homes are basic 2 room structures with a roof and space for windows, a door and brick walls are to be finished by the home owners themselves. The Nepali government has given each household that lost their home in the earthquake $1,000 towards a new home, yet a home will obviously cost a bit more than that. Besides, so many people have lost their jobs that the allocated money is spent on other necessities, such as food and water. Therefore AHV selects families with little money to either clear the land of the pile of rubble that once used to be their home, or build them the start of a new and safe home. Selecting the families is not an easy task. When AHV goes into a community and ask the leaders of that community who needs their help the most, they’ll get a list of family members of those leaders… So it takes a lot of talking to various people to find out who is actually in need the most.
Building a 50 Home consist of 4 stages: building the structure, adding wire mesh, putting up the roof and then the walls. Each of these stages are done by a different team of volunteers. To prevent having bored volunteers, they can choose to do something else every day, working with an experienced team leader.
Not part of the 50 Home Project, but the major component of the earthquake relief effort is:
Rubbling is the most physical and somewhat mindless job at AHV. However, you do need to mind your fellow volunteers when you toss rocks or swing your pick axe, which is sorta important… What I didn’t think about before actually rubbling, is that you’re not just clearing a pile of mud and rocks, you’re clearing a pile of mud and rocks that used to be someone’s home. So you’ll find kitchenware, clothes, toys… And as you find these you realise the actual impact on life this has made for these people. Often there’s a family member there who you give these finds to and they’ll inspect it and decide whether or not to keep it. So as I said, it’s not a pretty job, but it’s an important one, because you give them a clean slate to start new on and continue their life. Besides that, it’s a lot of fun too! Powering through with the team, sweating without caring, the family bringing you tea so sweet your teeth may just fall out and/or fanta, having a massive plate of dhal bhat and then being in a food coma for half an hour before you continue the sweat, swass and swoonani sessions and finally creating a flat piece of land out of the disaster site it was.
Pictures are non-working people, because when people are rubbling, YOU are rubbling! 😉
Structure was my favourite part of 50 Homes. It combines physical labour and using your brain. First you have to measure out and dig a bunch of deep holes to put the structure in. Then you start putting in the poles and securing them by placing rocks and jamming them in with a rock bar whilst keeping the poles levelled. It’s like a puzzle! You attach the poles with more poles and bars with screws and bolts and you’re left with a good looking sturdy and safe structure!
Roofing is one of the most brainy jobs, besides you need a lot of caution as you’re using power tools. The roof is basically made of ribbled tin slabs which is attached to the structure by drilling up through the tin and then putting hooks in to secure it. You need about 5 people on one job: one person drills, another person holds the ladder of the driller and hands over tools, another 2 hold down the roof to avoid it from moving and the last secures the hook on top of the roof.
Wiring is practically weaving with metal wire. The mesh that is created will prevent walls from falling into the house in case of an earthquake. You use your weight to tighten the wire as much as you can, though at first try I fell on my butt, which left a lovely big bruise.
I didn’t actually do walls, but this is the last part of the structure. The walls are also tin slabs that go on the top half of the part that makes the wall, above the wire mesh. There’s also cutting of the slabs involved with power tools and drilling to attach them to the structure. I have no photos of this unfortunately.
To celebrate the handover of the finished homes to the beneficiaries, a “puja” (ceremony) is performed. They bless their new homes and thank us for our work, and we all get rice and red colouring tikas on our forehead, a garland (flower necklace) and lots of food. They do think it’s funny to just start smearing red colouring all over our faces though…
The 50 Homes project is nearly completed now. Currently AHV has about 55 other rubble sites to clear and will be moving into a new base in Nuwakot in November. They will transition from short term relief efforts to building schools for long term projects.
The obligatory last-day-at-50-homes-site photos (chicken usually not included):