Post the earthquake of April 2015, I was more exposed to the humanitarian role that a civil engineer can play in reconstruction of the society. My will to help the earthquake affected areas recover and the enthusiasm to be with needy people were my main motivation during the projects that I had been involved in so far and it was no different this time as well.
A few days after the meeting with Rod, Deborah, Ross, Brenda and Sabin in Kathmandu, I got called up for my first Tawal visit scheduled on 25th of November 2016. While I was really happy and pumped up with this wonderful opportunity, I was equally anxious. Moreover, I was very curious about the setting and the gargantuan task ahead. After my initial visit to all the four schools of Kutal, Tawal, Ladap and Richet, I came to know that the construction sites were situated in tough terrains of Ri-V.D.C which meant that it was also going to be physically challenging for me. But I felt what was more thought-provoking was to be able to actually produce the right start to the project and then follow it up with good momentum. With limited skilled manpower, geographical hindrances for the transport of materials, and with no real mechanical equipment, it wasn’t going to be easy by any means but the existing conditions of the schools, the children, hopeful eyes of the people, and motivation from everyone around gave a huge boost to my confidence. I realized that I just had to do this.
The formation of the construction committees of each school on the first HRDC meeting for the rebuild program and material ordering were the initial signs of the start. Simultaneously, the sites were being cleared off and only after laying out of the trench plan, the reconstruction actually took off. The start was very difficult as most of the builders had never practiced using cement. Furthermore, they were illiterate and had no understandings of earthquake resilient design and dimensions. I remember cutting an 80cm long stick in Ladap just to demonstrate how wide and deep the trench was going to be. The hardworking, dedicated, sincere and crafty builders showed immense improvement over the time which has assured good quality and precision in currently built classrooms and I must say except for the few adjustments as per the site conditions, the implementation of the overall design and specifications has been up to the mark. For the classroom blocks which are going to be built next year, I am confident that the builders are well equipped with adequate knowledge and practice, and that they will be able to carry on this rebuilding even on their own. For me, this has been the greatest satisfaction.
My stay in Tawal has been a whole new experience for me. Beside supervising construction, living a rural lifestyle, learning Tamang language and cultures, I have also had the chance to witness firsthand the struggle and hardships of the people here. I have felt the patience of the men on the site who consistently tried, day in and out, and broke the huge room-sized boulder manually. When I would see the sweat dripping off the people walking past me carrying loads twice their weight, I would forget my tiredness. When I would see the pain of a mother giving birth to her child right on the ground, helpless, with no medical aid, I would forget the stinging pain in my feet.
Despite such adversities, I have also rejoiced the celebrations of Lhosar and the 5 day long Maney festival where everyone came together, forgetting all the sorrows of their lives and shared the joy. Shivering from the cold of snow and hailstorm to the relaxation of bathing in a water fall in a hot summer day, I really don’t think I have missed much even in this short stay.
During my stay here, I have bonded with a lot of people, especially with my host family, Kanchha, Lala, Rinchhen and newly born Dev. Dawa, our social mobilizer, has always been around and has been a great company. The consistent encouragement from Rod, Deb, Raul, my family and friends back home, and the amount of love and respect from the people here has driven me and has helped me persevere through the tough times. The rewards that my soul has received here are the moments that I shall cherish all my life.