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Khadga and Lalita - Nepal_s.JPG

Volunteers -
Making a difference overseas

From a tin shed to a home in Nepal

“In October 2019, our fifteen-strong team of Habitat for Humanity volunteers, from SA and NSW, worked on two houses for an extended family in a relatively remote area east of Kathmandu, Nepal.

The first sight of the location for the build was one of complete contrasts - a mountaintop site with a beautiful valley in the foreground and occasional glimpses of the snow-capped Himalayas in the distance. And then came the moment, when we saw the home-owner’s current living conditions, that really defined the trip.

Khadga, the mother-grandmother of the family for whom we were building, had been living for more than four years since the earthquake in what can best be described as a ‘carport’ on the side of a small Buddhist shrine - essentially a concrete slab, no walls, a tin roof, completely open to the elements which range from extreme cold to monsoonal rain. In this space, Khadga slept under a mossie net and cooked on a single gas burner. Her two sons, daughter-in-law, and grandson have been living in a tin shed a little distance away on the site of the build.

So, we started work on two houses next to each other that will see the extended family living together. Trenches for the foundations, nearly a metre deep, had been dug by the in-country Habitat for Humanity team before we arrived and we proceeded to build the foundations to an earthquake resistant design devised locally.

Completed slab - Nepal_s.JPG

Working to the instructions of a team of four stonemasons under the direction of an engineer, we put down a layer of large rocks followed by a layer of concrete, two further layers of rocks bound with a mud mortar, and topped with more rocks, a rebar steel box and more concrete. A base of rocks plus concrete completed a slab to create two rooms apiece with a total floor plan of 45 square metres on both sites.

The only technology onsite was a concrete mixer and our team formed a ‘pass-the-parcel’ line which delivered all of the required rocks, concrete and mud to wherever it was needed. It was hard work with some of the rocks probably weighing 20-30 kgs – which, embarrassingly, for the older volunteers, were picked up with ease by Lalita, the homeowner’s daughter-in-law. To say we were pretty tired at the end of the day would be an understatement but it was very satisfying to see the foundations slowly emerging. The ongoing in-country program - which might involve another visiting Habitat volunteer team - will now build the house on the foundations we completed.

We left the build site having done something pretty useful and the affectionate hugs we received from Khadga (right) and Lalita on departure confirmed our contribution was much appreciated.

Written by: Habitat for Humanity South Australia Volunteers, Peter Gill and Natalie Fuller

The houses in Nepal have since been completed. 

Khadga and Lalita - Nepal_s.JPG
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