Category Archives: Nepal

2015

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/

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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.

 

Climate…. politics & weather

 

Whether or not you believe in global warming or that weather changes are part of the natural cycle, or both – one cannot argue that there is an increase in both number and intensity of global natural disasters.  With this increase in disruption, there is need for assistance.  What is the architect’s role and how is it changing?

On this election day, all are waiting in anticipation.   How will the elected president face this climate challenge?  Hurricane Sandy was a global event – affecting not just the United State’s east coast, but also Cuba, Haiti – poor Haiti, and other surrounding areas. What is the role of architects in this disaster?

 

Using a similar approach to what we did in Haiti.  Where they can, AIA members are already responding to Hurricane Sandy. In Rhode Island, architects, engineers, and other design professionals from the AIA Rhode Island Architects and Engineers Emergency Response Task Force (AEERTF) are working with the state’s Emergency Management Agency to provide building safety assessments in hard hit communities along the coast.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the AIAS (American Institute of Architects Student) group at UW Milwaukee, SARUP (School of Architecture and Urban Planning) for graciously hosting last evening’s event and inviting me to talk with you.  Melissa, Nathan, and Caroline – you we fabulous hosts.  It was such a pleasure to be back at UWM and working with students.  Thank you for all your energy and support.

The process of preparing for this presentation reaffirmed my mission to continue forward with disaster assistance locally- as the WI AIA State Disaster Response Coordinator role and globally – in El Salvador and as the need arises elsewhere.