Nepal: Transitional Shelters & Household Surveys

Rebuilding in Nepal takes a road trip with Abari this week to document the process of door to door surveys in rural villages with potential to collaborate for a workshop on building. The goal is to learn the needs of community members affected by the earthquake and work together in building temporary shelters before the monsoon rains begin.

Back from Kavre. The difficult to pronounce, and even more challenging to access, district within a few hours drive of Kathmandu. Characterized by rolling hills and endless valleys, covered in different versions of sub tropical vegetation depending on altitude.

Our mission this week was to conduct surveys in at least 5% of the households for a group of communities in the Timal area.

The surveys helped Adobe and Bamboo Research Institute, Abari, better understand the effects of the earthquake for rural family members. The goal is to condense the responses into an impact report that gauges the best ways to offer building workshops in this difficult to reach terrain.

Villagers cutting bamboo for temporary home construction in Narayanthan, Kavrepalanchok

Villagers cutting bamboo for temporary home construction in Narayanthan, Kavrepalanchok.

Abari has also been really active in the distribution of Transitional Shelter Manuals. The battle to rebuild in many rural areas of Nepal after the earthquake lays in ideology and information sharing.

These manuals produced by Abari were printed in local newspapers, downloaded hundreds of times from their website and have been printed and personally delivered by staff in rural Kavre villages.

The theme of the document is to be resourceful, guiding families to prepare building sites with vigilance and aim to make this structure livable for the next two to three years.

The reception has been overwhelming! I have conducted baseline surveys in other countries under different circumstances, but the questionnaires this past week were all bound by the theme of the earthquake.

Families had tremendously emotional experiences with many losing family members, parts of their homes and even flooding from river/spring levels rising near their communities. The desire to rebuild, and how to do so with the limited funds and locally available materials is on everyone’s mind.

Newborn Goat - healthy livestock are crucial for farmers after the earthquake.

Newborn Goat – healthy livestock are crucial for farmers after the earthquake.

I was lucky enough to meet Parbati Pandey, a 21 year old environmental science student who spends most of her time in Kathmandu these days. Her family is rebuilding with bamboo in order to move her 88 year old grandmother and the rest of the relatives to a home that will make everyone feel more comfortable, to stop fearing that the aftershocks will surprise the family in their structurally condemned home.

Parbati talks about how the accomplishment of building a new temporary house isn’t without the emotional drawbacks of leaving the home she and her family have spent the entirety of their lives.

The survey responses gave interesting insight beyond the obviously destroyed homes. It was a unique opportunity to witness groups of people talk about the uncertainty of putting a structure together that will keep their families and possessions dry from the upcoming monsoon.

Staff from Abari surveying households in Kavrepalanchok, learning about the potential for offering building workshops in the area.

Staff from Abari surveying households in Kavrepalanchok, learning about the potential for offering building workshops in the area.

Responses are varying in their individual experiences of the earthquake, but themes emerge from the data that show families are very open to outside suggestions on building earthquake resistant structures.

People are at a loss for the destruction that happened, dealing with the myriad of emotions that come from losing their homes; the symbol of stability in the consistently uncertain life of a rural farmer.

This mission to continue to understand the evolving situation of rural earthquake housing has been a fascinating exploration of priorities and collaboration in community dynamics.

What materials are available, communal attitude towards building transitional shelters, and the willingness to provide labor and use personal savings towards buying materials were all gauged in the Timal ward of Kavrepolanchok.

Temporary Bamboo House, Chapakhori, Kavrepolonchok.

Temporary Bamboo House, Chapakhori, Kavrepolonchok.

From this our team is going to provide building workshops and guidance in the construction of transitional shelters, permanent homes and schools that are earthquake resistant.

There are so many fascinating opportunities for rebuilding in Nepal after the earthquake, I will be here all summer covering the situation from the field as needs change, people rebuild and support one another in recovering normalcy in everyday life.

About Allen Gula

Freelance journalist, Non-profit Manager
Non-profit professional specializing in rural community development projects. Currently based in Kathmandu, researching long term earthquake relief programs.

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