On December 6th 2016, we were introduced to Sarah Dickson and Balan RPS who were in search of a team to re-build a school in Gorkha. Earlier that year, they had visited Baluwa village in Gorkha and witnessed the deplorable condition that the Mandali School was reduced to after the 2015 earthquake. Students were forced to study out in the open for lack of a proper building to hold classes in. Sarah and Balan decided to fundraise to build a safe school for Baluwa. They researched a safe and inexpensive building method and came across Build Up Nepal and it’s work with interlocking block technology. Build Up Nepal recommended NFN as a better organization for the project in terms of budgeting and a meeting was arranged.
After our meeting, we left with the feeling of finding our perfect match. Sarah and Balan needed a hands-on team that works directly with locals in a bottom-up manner. We were eager to take on the project. The next step was to visit the site.
NFN’s Director and coordinator drove to Baluwa to discuss the details of the project. They met with the Principal and the school’s board members alongside the donors. The standing school had been damaged by the 7.8M earthquake and had been deemed structurally unsound by government officials. Sarah and Balan intended to have NFN dismantle the three-room building leaving the foundation and truss intact. NFN would then transport all necessary tools and materials to the school and produce interlocking blocks. Approximately 7,000 blocks would be needed and one hand-press block machine.
We received a very eager response from locals on the efficacy of interlocking blocks; local production, safety, fast construction…they seemed ready to participate. They had many questions for us and had high hopes of using the same method to build homes in the future.
The next step was to finalize the details: location of the training center, machine, how to obtain materials. Our biggest obstacle proved to be water. Located 3,000 ft. above sea level, the greatest hardship in Baluwa is accessing water. Locals spend hours collecting water from a handful of taps that often produce a trickle of water. This would prove to be the largest difficulty in our work.
Next was buying and collecting sand, cement, gravel. With the nearest city 3 hours away, purchasing materials would also take time and money. The remote location of Baluwa made transportation costs almost double our estimated cost. Nothing would come for free. This would be a labor-intensive project unlike our past projects in locations with plenty of free resources.
This visit confirmed NFN’s acceptance of the Mandali Primary School project. On December 20, 2016 NFN and Balan RPS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The document laid out the conditions of the project and each party’s responsibilities.
- NFN would provide all technical support and management of the MPS project
- The donors would provide all funds required by the project including the purchase of one hand-press block machine
- After the completion of the project the machine would be handed over to NFN for future use
On Friday January 6, 2107, NFN’s Director and one assistant coordinator traveled to Gorkha with all the project materials including one hand-press block machine. This marked the beginning of the 6-month project.
The following are the reports detailing the Mandali School Project in three parts: