Saturday, September 5, 2015

How to build a temporary shelter in Nepal

It's over 4 months since the two big quakes smacked into this little country, rocking what was already a fragile infrastructure into an amalgamation of rubble. Goodness knows how long "the rebuild" will take and if Christchurch is anything to go by (5 years since the start of it all on September 1, 2010), then it could be decades (if at all) before Nepal is back to how it was. In fact it will never be "back to how it was" because many ancient World Heritage Sites have been completely destroyed or have been damaged beyond recognition - they simply cannot just be "rebuilt" as they were before. Christchurch builds cardboard cathedrals but I highly doubt Kathmandu builds cardboard temples ...
Displaced people in Christchurch stayed with family and friends with intact homes; some where in camper vans and in many cases even left the city for good, but where do you go in a badly affected town or village when the next village is just as bad?
Resettlement camps have popped up in Nepal and I saw a few of these in or near Kathmandu and visited one near Bhaktapur that had over 1700 people living there in tents. It reminded me of a New Zealand holiday park at Christmas time - everyone in their tents; the cooking facilities and bathroom facilities open for all to share; happy little kids running about with big wide toothy smiles - only there was no nice relaxing beach or lakefront to recline on during the day; just the noise, dust and bustle of the surrounding city. What happens to these people? Winter comes soon and what becomes of them? What becomes of all the people who live in a thin tent that will offer little protection from the winter elements? I don't hear of people going camping at the beach during a New Zealand winter.

Shelters 4 Nepal 2.0 (S4N 2.0) is a small volunteer group making a BIG impact in some areas, such as like these types of "tent towns". They have been actively engaged in building temporary shelters that offer a family a sense of "home" for a while (who knows in reality how long it will actually be) for families in desperate need of a roof over their head. It is heart-breaking to see the conditions some people are living in - and these people do not complain; they graciously and courageously accept the situation for what it is and I am sure, with a belief they will soon be back in their own homes whether it be rebuilt or built from scratch. The thing is - the people in this situation have nothing - really - nothing! Perhaps they will never have the ability to rebuild their homes or even be re-housed if their home was totally destroyed. Can you imagine that? If you have several generations living in one small tent can you imagine how disheartening it must feel if you know that a new home is not a possibility? 
Shelters 4 Nepal 2.0  can at least offer a temporary solution although the reality is, that for some people these shelters may in fact be their last home. I do not have enough knowledge of how things work in Nepal but I certainly do not think it is close to resembling what we have in New Zealand in terms of looking after people who have been displaced due to natural disaster. Insurance helps.

To build a shelter it costs NZ $500 for the materials. There are volunteers on the ground in Nepal who are researching where the needs are greatest and are completing the build work. Each shelter is constructed "Ikea style" according to American volunteer for S4N 2.0, Chris. He has been working 10 hour days along with French woman Johanna, tirelessly piecing together pre-cut sections and corrugated iron (they do all the cutting work prior to erecting the shelters in-situ) to form the humble constructions. Chris and Johanna are supported behind the scenes in Nepal by what locals they can find and Amanda Summers who has hosted these volunteers (and others) for free at her guesthouse - Starview Guesthouse - in the village of Changunarayan near Kathmandu. Amanda feels it is her way of contributing, highlighting how together a few people can make a huge difference.
So how can YOU make a difference? Why not consider a corporate sponsorship? A business could sponsor the construction of several shelters and in return reap philanthropic recognition. What about as a family donating for the cost of ONE shelter? How about sports clubs or recreation groups getting together and donating for a shelter, for example - hiking or tramping clubs, scout groups, collectives and so on. A fundraiser for a shelter is also a great idea that people could do as individuals or with others - the good old kiwi "sausage sizzle" never fails to please; or perhaps a business breakfast? There are numerous ways people can get involved without feeling pressured to provide for an entire shelter alone. S4N 2.0 has a Givealittle page  - check it out; and also "like" and share their Facebook page. If you are interested in volunteering in Nepal by helping S4N 2.0 directly with their project, then that too is another fantastic option to explore. For further information on what S4N 2.0 is doing, email

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