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Ingenuity and Construction in Nepal

Lauren, one of BigCity’s senior designers, had the wonderful opportunity to trek through Nepal. She discovered a country of majestic natural beauty, coupled with heartbreaking poverty and surprising human ingenuity.

The average Nepalese family lives in one room.  Stone and mud brick shanties with river stones to hold tin roofs from blowing off in the alpine winters. Walls lined with dried grass and reeds for insulation. Lauren visited a building site high in the Himalayas, where the locals were building tea houses for international visitors.

Professional engineers are not readily available in this region, so concrete is formed using scraps of timber and cardboard weeties boxes.  Beams, lintels and joists are sized by eye, and village elders are consulted for construction advice. Amongst the haphazard nature of a dusty construction site, the hardworking local tradesmen employ a wonderful ingenuity and use of simple physics that western tradesmen simply take for granted every time they reach into their tool bag.

The Nepalese foreman is the keeper of the big stick, the only measuring device on site. A huge tree log leans against the wall with foot notches carved out of it to use as a ladder. Trenches below the street act as aqua ducts, carrying water down from the mountaintops. Handmade timber staircases always have a top and bottom step which is significantly smaller than the other steps.

Buddhist monks are often seen painting inscriptions on mountain sides – prayers to ensure the village is safe from avalanche and landslides.  Precarious mountain roads are shored up using large wire cages (an Australian invention) and filled with river stones to prevent the road crumbling into the river below.

Wealth is often measured by the amount of firewood stacked on your rooftop, which often causes buildings to buckle and collapse under the sheer weight.

Yet despite the hardships and lack of basic tools and skills, this is a country fighting for the right to progress, rebuilding after every landslide and bridge collapse, installing western toilets and gas fuelled hot showers to attract the passing tourists.

Despite overwhelming adversity, Nepalese children still manage to give you beaming smiles. Whilst visiting an orphanage in Pokera, Lauren was fortunate enough to donate sporting equipment, text books, school supplies and toys to the children.

The Nepalese government currently has a no adoption policy, so orphaned children remain in care until the age of eighteen. This particular orphanage Namaste Children’s House, was established and funded by western donation and is currently building a new home for the ever growing numbers of children seeking care.

To sponsor a child in care or buy a brick for the new facility ‘Namaste Children’s House’ see www.orphanagenepal.org