- First and foremost, building earthquake-resistant homes using techniques appropriate to the location and environment
- Providing comfortable and dignified homes to the villagers, that are aligned with their needs and lifestyle
- Using the funds raised for the rebuilding effort and materials with transparent reporting
- Being resourceful in the use of locally available materials
- Using the creativity and ingenuity of locals to create the plan for reconstruction
- Giving the villagers the last word in any decision
- Providing long-term support for the village in the development of tourism and economic growth
- The villagers provide a contribution to the rebuilding of their homes to give them a sense of ownership
What happened on the day of the earthquake?
The majority of the villagers were out planting corn at the time of the earthquake, as it was midday on a Saturday. The villagers who were in or near their homes were able to move to safety. While many of them fell or were otherwise banged up from the violent shaking, there were no serious human injuries or casualties in Rainaskot.
What happened after the earthquake?
For three weeks after the earthquake, the villagers lived together in a temporary shelter in an open field as severe aftershocks continued. Every home in Rainaskot was cracked and had some degree of wall collapse, especially in the upper portion of the houses. The villagers had a contentious debate about whether to remain in the village, considering the cost and difficulty to rebuild in that location. This was split along generational lines, with the older generations refusing to leave, and younger generations considering migration.
On May 7th, Bibek Pandit and Krishna Oliya of Sarvodaya Sewashram visited Rainaskot with relief supplies and, after hearing of the dilemma faced by the villagers, began to create a plan to assist with reconstruction. In a later visit, after Natasha Wozniak agreed to be the project’s fundraiser in the US, they were able to tell the villagers that they would be receiving assistance in rebuilding, and the majority of the villagers made the decision to stay and rebuild.
Who lives in Rainaskot?
The village of Rainaskot has 98 permanent residents, including many people over the age of 65 and 8 children. The residents are all of the Gurung ethnic group. The village has more women than men as there are a number of widows, and many of the young men have gone to work in the Middle East and Malaysia to provide their extended families with a source of income.
Where is Rainaskot located?
Rainaskot is located on top of a mountain ridge in the eastern part of the Lamjung district. Poundi is the nearest location with paved road access; from there, the unpaved road to Rainaskot lies just across the Marsyangdi River, which can be crossed by footbridge or a vehicle.
With this ridgetop location, Rainaskot features clear views of the Himalayas from most points in the village. There is a hill with a Shiva temple just above Rainaskot, and from that spot, the Himalayas from Machhapuchhure to Langtang Himal can be seen as well as ridge after ridge of the middle hills.
How many houses were built?
We are building 14 private homes and 2 community buildings—one community meeting and learning center, one historical house that will be restored to become a museum.
Who builds the houses?
Each house is built by a team of construction workers from a nearby village, supervised by a contractor.
Early on in the conversation with the villagers, they proposed that they would contribute to the houses financially by paying the cost of the labor. If they received the homes free of cost, they felt that they would not have clear ownership of their own homes. An exception was made for one widow who had no means to pay for the labor and the entire village agreed to this exception.
Are the new houses earthquake resistant?
Designing the houses to withstand future earthquakes was the highest priority for our team of architects and engineers. The old houses were made of irregular stones with only mud as mortar, and with no structural reinforcements. They were also two stories, which increased the danger of damage and injury to the occupants.
Our new houses are one story and made with brick with concrete foundations and mortar, with built-in reinforcement techniques. They have tin roofs.
What is villager-centric development?
One of the key factors in the sustainability of any development project is to have the collaboration and agreement of the beneficiaries. In order to set the stage for the success of the project, community meetings were held to discuss the plan for rebuilding in detail. Villagers have had input into every stage of the project, from the decision about which families will have their homes rebuilt first, to choosing from a number of house designs. Not only do we have a responsibility to the donors that fund the project, but we also have a responsibility to ensure that the way in which we conduct the work best serves the needs of the individuals it is meant to benefit.
How much of the funds raised goes to Nepal?
In our first year, 2015, we sent 83% of all contributions to Nepal. The remaining funds covered U.S.-based expenses such as hosting fundraisers, bookkeeping, legal fees, credit card fees, and travel expenses.
How are things progressing on the ground?
We are nearly done with the first five houses. While getting started, we faced numerous challenges: getting building permits; an economic blockade of the entire Indian border, which severely impacted fuel and other prices; and a water shortage in Rainaskot due to the shift in the earth as a result of the earthquake cutting off the spring water. The blockade has lifted, all permits are in place, and another water source has been established, allowing the construction to proceed.
Where are the villagers living now?
The villagers have been sharing housing. Everyone is staying in the parts of the houses that are not as damaged, even though they have substantial cracks. As soon as the first houses are built, the villagers will share this housing while the remaining houses are constructed.
How do the villagers earn a living?
Most of the villagers rely on remittances from abroad. It is common in Nepal these days for young men and some young women to go to a recruiter and be sent overseas to the Middle East or Malaysia for jobs as a laborers. For their sacrifice, they are able to send back a few thousand dollars to their family per year.
A few of the villagers have agricultural crops that they sell, such as cardamom. This earns up to US$1500 a year. Other villagers have goats, chickens, cows, buffalo, and bees. They are able to generate periodic income from the sale of animals or honey.
Aside from these cash crops, the villagers are self-sufficient in growing food. The land around Rainaskot is fertile and they are able to grow a wide variety of crops without the use of any chemical fertilizer or pesticide.
What about economic sustainability?
Throughout Nepal, villages have been depopulated as villagers migrate seeking economic opportunity. This migration is to the Kathmandu Valley or abroad, to jobs in the Middle East or Malaysia with low pay and very poor working conditions.
This was taken into account in the early planning stages. With an incredible view and relatively easy road access, Rainaskot has great potential as a tourist location. Each house was built with an extra room for guests and the villagers will be given the needed training to host guests, both domestic and foreign. In Nepal this is commonly know as a homestay, which is the equivalent of a bed and breakfast with all meals included.
Future plans include a meditation and yoga pavilion or an ashram above the village; various teachers will be invited to use the facilities for retreats. The village will have the ability to house at least 28 guests at one time and the focus on this targeted audience will provide a steady stream of guests to Rainaskot.
Many of the younger generation of Rainaskot natives living overseas have reached out to us to express their interest in moving back to the village to help operate the homestay program should we be able to attract a sufficient number of guests.