15 March 2016
By Chng EuLee
On 22 February, a team from OHF comprising Robert (Chairman), Rick (Overseas Director) and EuLee (Singapore Director) set off from Kathmandu to visit the recipients of Rice Bag Houses in Dhading District. These are the beneficiaries of the Nepal Rebuilding Fund that OHF started in the aftermath of the earthquake on 25 April 2016.
The journey from Kathmandu to Dhading Besi, the district headquarters of Dhading, took nearly 5 hours. At the guesthouse we met up with a local NGO to discuss how we can scale up our rice bag house construction. We spent a night at Dhading Besi and enjoyed the traditional delicacy dal bhat, while preparing ourselves to rough it out for the next few days.
In the early morning of 23 February, we set off to Dhuseni, where there were 14 houses completed and many more in construction. The journey to Dhuseni was a long and arduous one. We spent 7 hours on the most difficult roads that would only appeal to the hardcore offroader. As part of the experience, the 4WD that we were in was stuck twice in mud! Apparently we were probably one of the first few vehicles to travel on a newly constructed road near Dhuseni. At the end of our journey we were rewarded with garlands laid by a whole line of welcoming villagers.
What was surprising was the effort the villagers took to make us comfortable. In addition to tents for sleeping, there were tents for dining, shower and a toilet too!
The next day we traveled to Fulkarkha VDC to visit another village and visit a school that needed rebuilding. The Shree Ganga Jamuna Ganesh Parbat English Boarding School had 52 students in 6 classes before the earthquake. The enrolment was reduced to 25 now but with a new building, the management committee is confident that the enrolment will be back or even exceed the former number. It’s heartening to know that this school is very popular with the villagers and that learning English is a priority in this mountainous village. We travelled back to Dhuseni Village in the dark after that.
25 February was an important date for those who completed the houses. It was competition day! We challenged each family to put in a lot of effort to build the best house and the winner would be awarded a solar panel. The whole day was spent in Dhuseni, talking to the villagers, interviewing them and just sharing their joy in having a place to call home. The feedback we got convinced us that the Rice Bag Houses is really the best solution for mountain villages. We had a hard time judging as it was clear that the families were house-proud and put in an immense effort to win. In the end we all felt that the winner had to be the first house to have accepted our offer. Besides meeting our criteria of creativity, workmanship, etc, the family had taken the risk of being an early adopter.
At the end of the prize presentation, we announced that we would be providing cement for plastering. The design up till then required the villagers to plaster with mud. However with the upgrade to cement plastering, we expect the response for this to be overwhelming.
Rick and EuLee trekked to the neighbouring villages of Tawal and Tawal Besi, and onwards to Darkha to catch the ‘bus’ back to Dhading Besi. Because of the difficult terrain, Robert went directly to Dhading Besi from Dhuseni. We rendezvoused at Dhading Besi and spent a night there before heading back to Kathmandu the next day.
The programme the next days in Kathmandu was packed with meetings with other local NGOs that have potential to partner us in expanding the Rice Bag construction.
What is clear to us is that Rice Bag Housing truly has potential to provide housing solutions to those still living in temporary shelters. It takes less than two weeks to build and complete the plastering. It provides excellent thermal insulation where it remains cool inside in the summer and warm in the winter. Since the main bulk of the material, earth and gravel, is sourced on site, the only materials that need to be transported are empty rice bags, barbed wire and zinc sheets for the roof. Villagers experienced in building the houses could also potentially generate income by offering their services to others!
Meet the people:
Asmita, a beneficiary fo the rice bag house, showing her house that was destroyed by the earthquake and her new rice bag house.
Samji, the wonder worker. He was involved in building almost every house and is now helping the villagers in Tawal build theirs too.
JOIN US IN RAISING FUNDS FOR OUR REBUILDING PROJECT IN NEPAL!
- For just $1,500, you can help to build a house for a displaced Nepalese family
- For just $5,000, you can contribute to the reparation of a water system supporting an entire village's survival and livelihood needs
Visit the Nepal Earthquake Rebuilding Project page to find out how you can give!