May 2015 – During the first 2 weeks after the earthquake we organised transport for the delivery of food, tents, medical teams and medicines into the most affected areas. In the process we realised that after such a disaster people would need much more than the immediate aid and that rehabilitation would take years. NPO A Fantastic Initiative was registered. We started fundraising though families and friends.
June 2015 – $15200 were collected and we were able to take about three tons of food supplies by two helicopters to the remote Tsum valley. We spent 3 days in Tsum supervising the distribution and finding out how else we could help. At the same time we sent some tarps and medicines to Juke and Dodre villages in Solukhumbu, Fujel and Ghyakchok in Gorkha and Nawalpur in Sindhupalchowk.
July – August 2015 – We then decided to concentrate on rebuilding schools in mountain villages. We had meetings with NGOs working in Nepal for many years ( People in Need, Kids of Kathmandu, Abhari, Mountain People, Chaya), to learn from their experience. They were really helpful, we got lots of support and advice. We realized it didn’t make sense to get involved in rebuilding schools in Tsum Valley as many NGOs were already working there.
September-October 2015 – We were approached by Beni Ghale from Tipling village in Dhading district who were struggling to find help to rebuilding schools there. After talking to Beni and other villages we decided to start work there with the rebuilding of Gotham Devi primary school for 156 kids.
Tipling valley is a very remote and incredibly beautiful valley surrounded by high mountains covered by thick forests with a total population of about 3400 people in 9 villages. It is a 10h drive and 1-3 days walk from Kathmandu. It doesn’t see many tourists. The main income comes from agriculture and its hardly enough so many of its inhabitants are forced to go abroad. They can’t earn much there either. Whatever they could earn in 15-20 years of hard labour was spent on the building of proper houses. All these houses were destroyed in the quake. Months after the earthquake, people were still reluctant to rebuild because of many reasons, but mainly because, as they say «we don’t know how to build houses that will survive the next earthquake». So we decided to try not just to rebuild the school but give villages an earthquake proof, cheap and sustainable building design made from local materials, which they could adopt for rebuilding their own houses. We spent about 2 months considering different designs, talking to architects, engineers and builders. Finally we zeroed on earthbag technology (www.earthbagbuilding.com )
We hired the Ark Himalaya Architectural company who had the expertise in earthbag building. They promised to develop a design, get it approved by the government and supervise the construction. We took an architect and a civil engineer from that company to Tipling village where we spent a few days. They did all the measurements and we had a few meetings with locals explaining this new technology. By November 1 Ark Himalaya gave us a detailed plan of the school (6 classrooms, 2 toilets, teacher’s room and a library) amounting to a budget of $43000.
November 2015 – Roman with two volunteers, Rick and George, went to Tipling to check the materials and manpower availability for the earthbag school construction. He found out that there was no water or electricity on the site. The new school building that had collapsed in the earthquake didn’t have them! So we decided to start right away with the water supply because it was necessary not only for our school but important for the whole village since, with the existing water supply system, they didn’t have access to water during the 3 dry months. Roman developed the project ,the total cost of which would be about $5000.
After 3 months of endless meetings with the Department of Education and promises that the design approval was just around the corner, the earthbag design was finally refused and we were forced to look for another design.
December 2015 – FI signed the MOU with Dept. of Education for the construction of the primary school in Tipling together with a well-established and known NGO, Himalayan Health Care. Two designs were given to us by the government. Both used bricks, cement and steel. The initial budget for such a school in our location would come to about $170000. We decided to look for ways to modify the government designs or to find an alternative design. Roman went to Tipling with a truck of materials to establish a camp for volunteers, as there were no houses left in the village, and work on the construction of a water tank and a 1400m water pipe.
January 2016 – Our water project is going well. Roman had to go back to Ktm to get more materials. The project should be completed by February 4th.