Category Archives: Nepal

2015

5 Day Mason Tranings in MELA school, Mahadevtar

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Dear Friends & Family, here’s a short video on the successful implementation of Namaste Nepal’s rebuilding program following the 2015 earthquakes that devastated regions around Kathmandu.

Namaste Nepal believes that the most effective way how to help Nepal after the big earthquake is the education and the knowledge how to build earthquake resistant constructions.

So far we managed to organize 4 Masons Trainings, which consists of two parts, theoretical and practical. It is led by trained Nepalese

 It’s very exciting to know that not only will these newly trained Mason’s be able to build back safer homes for their family, it opens up opportunities for them to get jobs.

 Thank you all for your continued support of Namaste Nepal’s efforts and project ArchitectUnseen

A Theory of Relativity

We rarely seem to have ALL needed relative information in the very moment we need to make an important life altering decision. Yet, in the end, we often land exactly where we are supposed to be.  

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A leap of faith. Selling my house & things and joining a rebuilding project with Namaste Nepal were indeed a life altering decisions. Though this path took unintended turns, there are no regrets.

DSC02018As you consider your yearend contributions, please keep in mind families in Nepal. 100% of your contributions will help Namaste Nepal to continue their technical training program.

NN_logoDonation link is on the left side of the home page:

http://www.namastenepal.cz/en/

 

Due to poor construction techniques, 90% of Mahadevtar and Anaikot homes were destroyed in the 2015 earthquake.

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Namaste Nepal has developed a government approved week long technical training program that invites all village members, men and women, to attend and learn safer building techniques.

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Namaste Nepal provides funding for the instructors, training materials, meals, certificate, and registration with the local building department.

subash-pujanI could not be more proud.

As of today, Subash and Pujan have provided technical training sessions for over 60 Nepali residents in both Mahadevtar and Anaikot.

anaikot-graduationMore communities are requesting this training program.   It is predicted that the team will be expanding the program and empowering more than 100 Nepali families.

untitledGreat credit goes to the amazing Namaste Nepal field team, Yarda, Eva, Subash, and Pujan and the office team, Sonja, Martina, and Hela for their tenacity and perseverance.

The rebuilding plan is evolving and will help many communities build back safer.   I remain forever grateful for this opportunity.

Wishing all of you great warmth, happiness, and success in the New Year!

Namaste

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j9-aoeP.S.   My Mother is home and doing well.

Now settled into my new home at the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, I’ve landed right where I’m supposed to be.

Family

mayaTulimaya, a proud grandmother to two beautiful grandbabies and mother to five hard working children, taught me an important life lesson.

Seven years my junior, Tulimaya – Maya for short, is much wiser and understands the great value of family

In Nepal, the family is considered the most important social unit and a high value is placed on family ties.

Many families, particularly in rural areas are larger than in the West and are also extended. There is a very clear hierarchy and the patriarch is usually the father or older brother; however, Maya in her gruff and loud voice, appeared to be the one in charge. I grew to like her quite a bit.

Maya_family6In Nepal older people are given a lot of respect and are expected to be cared for by the younger generation.  Multigenerational families often live under one roof, and when a son marries his wife is brought to the family home to live. Having children is considered very important in Nepalese culture. Most importantly, when someone is sick , the family rallies around.

Maya_family2While overlooking Maya’s mountain on a clear day, I could see the snowy peaks of Everest in the distance. I was also painfully aware how far away my family was

Shortly after returning back to Kathmandu, I’d received word that my mother had gotten quite sick and was admitted to the hospital. A few days later, we were readying to leave for Anaikot and I’d learned her condition worsened. Dedicated to the Namaste Nepal mission, my heart was torn….. However, recalling Maya’s lesson…..it was time to return home.

NN_logoNow back in Wisconsin and close to family, part of my heart remains in Nepal. Over 90% of families have lost their homes and are in need of great help.

Please stay tuned for more updates on the Namaste Nepal project and opportunities for you to help these families rebuild.

Thank you for visiting ArchitectUnseen.

Namaste.

Successes and Setbacks

And so it goes, we’ve all experienced successes in projects- yay! …and yes, we’ve also experienced setbacks-boo.

anaikot-damageWithin the last week, we’ve watched a successful project launch in Mahadevtar and accomplished a significant first step in the Anaikot project.

Yet – we’ve also run into a bit of a bureaucratic roadblock before we can begin trainings or rebuilding in Aniakot.

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On Monday, September 27, 2015, Yarda (Namaste Nepal Programme Manger) completed a major accomplishment by getting the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Anaikot, Panchkhal Municipality Chairman (i.e. Mayor.) Getting the local Municipality in support of the project is a critical first step.

Yarda is always working…….

NN_logoThe MoU is an agreement that outlines terms of cooperation between Namaste Nepal and the Municipality of Panchkhal following the earthquake that struck Nepal on the 25th April, 2015 and the major aftershock on 12th May 2015. The 10 page MoU in essence includes who, what, when, where, why, and how much $?

team_translation2aThree days prior, the field team attended a DUDBC (local building department) meeting to learn more about what the local government will allow for trainings and reconstruction. The meeting was in Nepal, thus our very capable Nepali engineers, Subash and Pujan, had to translate the results.

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The good news is that some training programs have been approved; however, we still must submit an official “proposal” before we can start our trainings – this could take months.

In addition, the DUDBC has not yet approved any housing designs (prototypes) for reconstruction, thus there is still a ban on rebuilding – another project delay that will likely set us back two months.

Time to reevaluate and update the game plan.

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The ever, over packed and underprepared American – I was grateful to get some help with my pack on the uphill climb to the Punchkhal school, where the field office will be.

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After setting in and setting up the office, we asked Subash and Pujan to search for some water …..and they came back with this. You guys are great!

Thus we decided ….rather than focus on the setbacks, we would celebrate the project’s successes.

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Yarda and Subash – always working, even when they are celebrating.

I have been fortunate to collaborate with these very hardworking and passionate team mates.

Images from Kathmandu

IMG_3684Around every corner there are reminders of the earthquake from four months earlier.

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Some Nepali building owners have begun deconstruction and others have added bracing with hopes of one day soon salvaging and repairing.

I can’t help but wonder what this City was like before the devastation.

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vibrant life_turnThough our project focus is outlying villages, we will typically spend a few days a week in Kathmandu to attend meetings and take care of administration items not accessible in the field.

Though there has been much destruction, the resilient people of Kathmandu Nepal continue a vibrant busy life and still find time for celebration.

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street art

The signing of the constitution this week brought many out into the streets – near Durbar Square, we saw many street paintings such as this.                                                                              _____________________________________

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Many sacred temples and significant historic landmarks that have been destroyed.

There are often several structures within one temple plaza – some remain standing, such as the Hararti Devi main dome, while others directly adjacent lie in ruins.

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herari temple 

My hope for them is to find the resources needed to restore these sacred places to their original form.

Namaste my Napali friends.

Mahadevtar: Winterization & Rebuilding

plaqueEarly April 2015 (3 weeks before the earthquakes), Namaste Nepal had just completed construction of a new school for the village of Mahadevtar, ward 15 (formerly part of the Anaikot region.)

Beautifully designed and constructed with local materials (stone, bamboo, wood, and cement), this school was intended to be a place for education and a meeting place for the village.

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The late April and early May 2015 earthquakes destroyed 90% of the homes in the Village of Mahadevtar.   The Nepal government provided each family with 15,000 rupees (just under $150 US dollars) to buy materials to build a temporary shelter.

Families had purchased corrugated metal panels and combined them with bamboo, wood, and tarps to house their families and animals. With winter fast approaching, the focus is on providing additional supplies so that they can stay warm in these minimal shelters.

assessments-shelterThe first goal was to survey all 49 homes, documenting GPS coordinates, owners certificate, and existing condition photos.  Yarda and Subash tirelessly led and completed these efforts in less than a 24 hour period.   Note that this include continuous trekking and climbing some very steep paths over a great distance. Kudos guys!

distribution2The second task was to review each family situation, including number of people living in household, health situation, income, and monies received to date. Yarda reviewed the budget and aligned distribution of funds as needed for each family.

distribution

After the assessments were complete, a village meeting was called at the school where the programme was introduced and funds were given to each family. Yarda and Subash did an amazing job of keeping things moving along smoothly as I photographed and assisted with a few small tasks.

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Subash and I will return to this village in a few weeks to conduct trainings to help the villagers learn how to build back safer by introducing earthquake resistant technologies for construction of their new home. Hopefully I will be better prepared next time for the 5 hour mountain climbing journey- or as Yarda says, it’s just a little uphill walk.

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Many thanks to our hostess, Timilamaya (Maya)  and her family for taking such good care of us during our visit.

My awkward American habits and tent placed in the middle of their outdoor living room gave them much to laugh and gossip about. Maya and her family of 8 live in what is left of their 2 story home – we hope that they have enough to stay warm this winter, and possibly begin to rebuild before monsoon season sets in next spring.

It is good to be back in Kathmandu for a short stay, just long enough to meet with other NGOs working on the education and rebuilding efforts and then head back out in the field. Our next village trip to Punchkhal/Anaikot is scheduled for Thursday. Stay tuned for that programme outline and next steps.

Namaste!

Task #1: MoU

IMG_3667Grateful to have a brief respite between flights, this tiny room at Mini Hotel Central is a welcomed shelter from Hong Kong’s bustling streets.

In the morning stillness, I found time to explore the City and take in the harbor sunrise. My late morning treat was a visit of the nearby HK Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Orchids always make me smile.

IMG_3673Today is my sister’s birthday. Though I am sad to be far away on her special day, she is always with me. Thinking of recent moments spent with family and friends – my heart is full, but weighs heavy as I leave them behind to look at the tasks that lie ahead.

Yarda, my Namaste Nepal (NN) colleague, has kindly offered to meet me at the Kathmandu airport this evening. First thing Sunday morning, we will meet with our newly formed Namaste Nepal 2015-2016 rebuilding team.

There are many near and far who make up our NN team. Our remote support team has members located in both Prague and Sidney. Our Nepal field team will include Yarda,(the program manager), 3 Nepali engineers (introductions later), and me (the technical manager.)

13_PanchkhalField visits will begin this Tuesday with a multi-day trip to Anaikot and Mahadevtar. We will first meet with the Panchkhal secretary and chairman to finalize the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU.)

An MoU is a legal document that outlines a service agreement between our NN NGO (Non Government Organization) and the local government.

(Before my departure, I’d just completed an Mou between the WI American Institute of Architects and the WI Emergency Management Service to provide disaster assistance.)

More on this critical first step on the next post.

Thank you for following our Namaste Nepal rebuilding programme.

Namaste.

Final Countdown

One week until the journey begins.  If the travel alone doesn’t cause one to think twice, the 6 month assignment in remote villages of Nepal surely should. The itinerary begins with a bus ride from Madison to Chicago O’Hare Airport.  With an extended layover in Hong Kong, the final flight lands in Kathmandu, Nepal 48 hours later.

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The journey actually began a week ago when family and friends helped me move the remains of my belongings into a POD for 6 months of storage.  I am forever grateful to them for their unconditional love and willingness to help.

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The weekend was full of bittersweet family reunions.  We said goodbye to our respected Uncle Tom and warm hearted Aunt Gina.  They were laid to rest next to our father.

Time stands still when I’m with my siblings, Ken and Sheri, I am grateful for their support.

Looking toward the next venture, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Though words like “courageous” and “brave” are appreciated, I feel like anything but. Leaving behind the security of a full time job, a home, and family is terrifying as hell.

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The real heroes are the members of our Namaste Nepal (NN) team who made the rebuilding projects a reality. Visit the website to learn more about their projects. Note:  English translations for all pages in the works. http://www.namastenepal.cz/en/

yarda

Yarda, my NN colleague from Czech Republic, arrived a week ahead  and is currently meeting with our Nepali partners and engineers.  (I hope he doesn’t mind my posting his picture.)  Other invaluable members of our NN team include Sona- a talented architect living in Australia with whom I worked with in Haiti, and Helca & Martina who are working remotely in Czech Republic to help coordinate the travel details and program documents.

Much yet to pack and mounds of paperwork to sort/file. Signing off for now.

Namaste

Introducting Namaste Nepal Rebuilding Programme

photo-mountainsWith gracious help from many, including family, friends, and the Namaste Nepal program development team, I have accepted a new amazing position to help rebuild homes for the families impacted by the 2015 Nepal earthquakes.

The two earthquakes in Nepal, April 25th and May 12th respectively, left over half a million homes destroyed and many additional households damaged.

In cooperation with coordination system in place (Cluster approach under the Government of Nepal and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cross Nepal) our goal is to provide rebuilding assistance for local communities, including the following:

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  • collection of data (damage assessments)
  • raising public awareness of seismic measures in constructions
  • supervision and assistance with construction of new houses and repairs, ensuring recovery in a better standard (BBB principle – Build Back Better)

 

My favorite part of this program is that it engages the community through Owner Driven Reconstruction (ODR), it empowers the home owners with the knowledge to help themselves.

The Owner Driven Reconstruction program is a post-disaster method of recovery that involves people in rebuilding their own homes, which is widely supported by the international community as well as Government of Nepal. Activity of Namaste Nepal will focus on active assistance to the communities to help themselves.

Stay tuned as we prepare to officially launch the program early September 2015. 

Do what you can with what you have where you are.

“Do what you can with what you have where you are.”   Theodore Roosevelt

 

Considering recent questions on the purpose of project “Architect Unseen,” I respond with this.  All that remains undone is overwhelming and the path, at times, seems insurmountable.   However, if one can break down a big idea into manageable projects, it is possible.

The project launch is a focus on fundraising for a volunteer trip to El Salvador.  The purpose of this trip is to learn firsthand from a successful recovery program in a country similar to Haiti in climate and geography.  With hopes to bring home an understanding of what it takes to empower people with the knowledge to help themselves, I hope to apply this locally and globally – especially in Haiti.

My advice, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

 Following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, I asked – “What can I do to help?”  Closely connected to Key West, I traveled south to help pick up garbage from the shorelines.  Neither scientist nor marine biologist, the feeling of helplessness was overwhelming.  On returning home, I asked the question a little differently, “What can I do as an architect to help?”  I searched for architecture volunteer programs and sent a few emails.  The next day, Rachel Minnery, co-founder of Architects Without Borders Seattle, asks if I would like to talk with her about an upcoming Haiti relief trip. Three weeks later, I am on an airplane to Miami to meet 11 architects and engineers and travel on to Petit Goave, Haiti.

It was the beginning of this journey and a fitting introduction to this project, Architect Unseen.

Visiting and working with people from other cultures provides an opportunity to learn more about one’s own.  Now certified as a disaster assistance – safety assessment program trainer, it is time to start training.  Exposed to the worst case situation in Haiti, it is time to find a way to prevent it.   With your help, project Architect Unseen will continue to evolve and find ways to help people.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.