Volunteer Nepal

At last year’s Roofing Association conference (2015) Richard Vetter stood up and said, “I was in Nepal just before the earthquake and loved the place and the people.  One of the Villages where I stayed has been flattened by the earthquake and I am going back to help them rebuild their community centre. Who wants to come along?”  

Rod Newbold, from Steel & Tube, along with his wife, Rex Harkin, Dion McFlynn from Viking and friends and family of members were “in” and formed the team.

Rod reports on this amazing experience and the contributions, made by Kiwis, to the people of Khunde Village.

The trek started from the airport at Lukla, 45 minutes by air from Kathmandu. This airport is 3 days walk from the nearest road end and was put there by Hillary to help his work building hospitals and schools in the valley.  Getting there was an adventure in itself, Google “Scary airports” and you will see why.  

We set off walking up the beautiful Khumbu valley, steadily gaining altitude.  It was amazing to see how much civilisation there was in such a remote area.  All we carried ourselves were light day packs.  The Sherpas carried the bulk of our gear, these slightly built people carried up to 70Kg or more, supported only by a strap around their head, up and down hills for days on end.  That’s 18 dozen cans of beer!

Nothing is wasted here.  The only thing they can grow at this height is potatoes, which took up the whole of every front lawn, and fires are fuelled by yak dung.  Human waste is composted and used for fertiliser.

After 3 days trekking we arrived at Khunde Village, site of our project.  95% of the buildings here were destroyed by the earthquake, nearly all had been rebuilt in the ensuing 12 months, apart from the Community Hall.  (Christchurch City Council, take note.)  Helping to rebuild the hall was our project.

We immediately got to work.  The walls were already up, constructed from dry laid blocks of granite hand chipped on site from boulders.  We split into teams doing roof structure then the roof, wall lining and floors.  The ladies spent the mornings helping to teach English at the local school, and helped with the building in the afternoons.

By the end of 5 days we had the roof on, and the walls and floor half done.  We left the rest to the Sherpas, they couldn’t wait to use our tools and were right in behind us. 

Khunde is at a height of 3,800 metres, (higher than Aorangi Mt Cook), so we certainly felt the effects of height.  It is a beautiful spot, surrounded by high peaks, a short walk in the morning gave you a view up the valley at Chomolungma (Mt Everest).  

Unfortunately one of our team, one of the youngest and strongest, got altitude sickness and was flown out by helicopter to Kathmandu, where he made a rapid recovery.  Luckily a recently built hospital was right beside us.  Thanks Sir Ed.

The cost of the build was about USD$100,000, of this we raised about USD$45,000 in donations and the remainder was raised by the Sherpas.  ITM were a major contributor of tools, MSL gave us some fasteners and connectors, and Rex Harkin and Peninsular Roofing made significant personal contributions. 

Some returned to Kathmandu at this point, myself and 4 others continued for 3 days up to Everest Base Camp at 5,300 metres.  Not much to see here really, just dozens maybe hundreds of tents strewn along a bleak moraine bank, but it felt like quite an achievement.

As we travelled back down the valley we felt fit and altitude acclimatised, so took the scenic route.  As the beautiful scenery unfolded at every corner, changing as we lost height, I felt sad to be leaving such a beautiful country and people.  I’ll be back.

If you are interested in coming with me in 2018 to work on another project, give me a call.