6-12 January 2017 #840

Learning to reconstruct

Volunteers from around the world are filling the gap left by the government in helping rebuild quake-damaged schools
Shreejana Shrestha in NUWAKOT

Shreejana Shrestha

BIDUR — Brought up in a family where education was an utmost priority, Carlota Padeira needed little convincing to fly to Nepal when she learnt about how All Hands Volunteers was helping rebuild schools destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes.

The 22-year-old Portuguese who is doing her masters in clinical psychology in London made personal appeals and raised funds through Facebook and Instagram to help rebuild some of the schools destroyed by the earthquakes before she came to Nepal.

“Every child should have an opportunity to learn inside strong buildings where they can dream of a wonderful future,” says Padeira.

She is currently working to reconstruct classrooms at the Prithvi Secondary School in Bidur municipality of Nuwakot district. The buildings were damaged on 25 April 2015 and nearly two years later children are still studying in makeshift sheds.

Godfrey Atienza from the Philippines is in Nepal the second time to help in reconstruction, and says he was inspired and motivated by the work All Hands Volunteers did in his hometown. “We don’t really need a reason to help others. I feel that people who have time and money should help,” says the 30-year-old. 

All Hands Volunteers is partnering with Nepal Rises which has already rebuilt and retrofitted five schools in Nuwakot and Sindhupalchok. Out of 528 government and private schools in the district, only 150 classrooms were deemed safe after the earthquakes.

More than 3,000 volunteers from different parts of the world have been in Nepal over the past two years through All Hands Volunteers, says project manager Saskia Hesselink. Another group is working on retrofitting Kalyanidevi Higher Secondary School in Jilling.

Eric Beitia from the US is leading the two-month project in Jilling and works with 10 other volunteers from different countries and with the local community. “We are not just trying to provide new buildings to the school but also structurally safer buildings from which students can escape quickly in future earthquakes,” he says. 

All Hands Volunteers has teamed up with local masons and pays for the building materials and resources required from money it raises from private donors and volunteers.

Volunteer groups like All Hands have stepped in to fill the gap left by slow government response. The National Reconstruction Authority says it will start rebuilding 2,000 schools this year. More than 8,200 private and public schools were destroyed or damaged by the 2015 earthquakes.

Read also

Lesson still to be learnt, Sonia Awale

Reconstruction in ruins, Om Astha Rai and Sahina Shrestha