In two small rooms in a newly constructed brick structure — soon to be a family home in Bhurunchuli, an hour and a half outside of Kathmandu — it seems the whole village has turned up. The men, women and children are crowded round the doorways and leaning in the window frames, all here to see the bloggers who have come to visit. We’re here to see the post-earthquake rebuilding project, organised by the Creasion non-governmental organisation and supported by Coca-Cola.
I’m here in Nepal with the drinks company on a #NepalNow project, seeing how Coca-Cola contributing to rebuilding and supporting women with its #5by20 project (more on which in later posts). (Coca-Cola is sponsoring BritMums’s travel, accommodations and other expenses in Nepal. All opinions are our own.)
The women in this poor rural village are in gorgeous brightly patterned sarees, some with coloured string woven into the ends of their long black plaits. Some of the men wear topi, the popular soft Nepali hat. After watching three young girls perform a dance, we hear from a community organiser, who speaks emphatically about the value of the new buildings. She even goes so far to say that for this little community, otherwise unnoticed by the national government, the devastating 2015 earthquake was a blessing in disguise.
In less than 18 months, the public-private partnership led by Creasion, an NGO created by a group of under-30s in the charity sector and involving young people, is well on its way to replacing the 55 homes destroyed by the quake. In addition, the project is building a new bathhouse for women.
A bathhouse that revolutionises life for village women
The bathhouse, called a padhero, serves three purposes. By giving the women a communal building to wash clothes, it provides fellowship and support, a place where they can come share their problems with others while also washing clothes — something that Creasion Founder and CEO Aanand Mishra would make their mothers-in-law happy, no small matter in a close-knit family-oriented community.
The padhero also creates a private space hidden from view where women can bathe. As Mishra tells us, in the rural villages of Nepal women often have to wash themselves in public because of a lack of facilities. That can lead to harassment and sexual violence.
And by using a water system that captures rainwater and stream water from the surrounding hills, it will allow the women to avoid the half hour walk to fetch water, something they sometimes have to do three times a day.
And finally, the Creasion project is also creating toilet facilities in the school, particularly important for girls, who often stop attending school when they start menstruating.
Involving the community
When we arrived at the village up a steep rutted road in a downpour, the villagers had set up a large tarpaulin for a ritual. A woman anointed our foreheads with red dyed rice and smiling children dressed in their Sunday-best clothes handed each of us a beautiful bouquet of ferns, red carnation and white gerbera daisy.
Later, an older man rang chimes and sang melodious prayers as we cast flowers and rice into the foundations of the bathhouse and spread a bit of mortar. Building will start when monsoon rains end. Another man lit a small pyre, the ground around it dusted with dye. It was moving ceremony.
The incorporation of local religion and customs is not just a nicety. By involving the villagers in the project and creating a sustainable economic structure moving forward, this project demonstrates localism at its best.
Local women have been taught how to make the bricks, villagers have given input to the architect so the houses suit their needs. It’s these activities that will make the project a success, serve as a model for other villages, with the bricks sold to support the village and the larger project.
The same week we visited Bhurunchuli, The Himalayan Times reported that 12,000 earthquake victims of Kavre district received the first instalment of the 50,000 Nepali rupee government relief, for the contruction of houses. Those people will be starting that process.
Standing on the hill opposite the main part of the village, we can see the blue roofs of the villagers’ new houses, nearing completion. They will stand alongside toilet facilities and a building that will transform the life of the women. Even from here, we can see they look like a new beginning.
We’d love to hear what you think about the project! Leave your comments below.
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