Posted by Karen Stade on Jun 21, 2018
Efforts to help rebuild earthquake-devastated Nepal saw Whakatu Rotary Club member Trevor Marshall travel to Bridim a small, remote village in the Langtang National Park in April.
 
Pictured: Trevor (right) and his son David, ready to start work.
 
Bridim's  200 residents have built up a decades-long working relationship with Nelson’s John Gully, working as guides and Sherpas for his business, Everest Treks.  John’s brothers, Phil and Hugh, are members of Whakatu Rotary Club and it was through this relationship that the club joined forces last year with John Gully’s friend, Sir John Kirwan, to hold a fundraising speaking event in the city. With other personal donations, this raised around $15,000 to help rebuild homes for villagers, many of whom had either lost homes or were left with seriously damaged houses following the 2015 earthquakes.

With building tools and equipment from New Zealand already in situ, Trevor and his son David travelled with John to the Himalayan nation to work alongside villagers in building a new home for a school teacher couple.

The trip from Kathmandu should perhaps have been a signal of what was to come. It was an uncomfortable 12 hours of unrelenting bumping along rough roads in a four wheel drive vehicle, winding slowly up the mountains to the village, which is built on terraces rippling down steep slopes. Dotted across this majestic landscape were blue tarpaulins covering damaged buildings or still providing temporary shelter for villagers. The views were amazing and indeed, eco-tourism is something the village relies on to bring in much needed cash. Business has dropped considerably since the earthquakes and is something the village is keen to restore with through its building replacement programme.
 
The next thing was dealing with the vast differences between Kiwi and Nepalese building standards. Truth be known, Trevor said there didn’t seem to be many, if any, standards in Nepal. The first indicator that this building project would be like no other Trevor had ever been involved with, was when his query about the building plan was met with blank stares. There wasn’t one and the quick outline drawn for him didn’t much look like the house plan he and the Whakatu club had been shown back in Nelson when they approved funding.

Regardless, the aim was to get a house built and while Trevor can tell many stories of unorthodox building methods interlaced with village politics, he says he also realised they simply had to get on with the job at hand. Key to this, and to earlier building projects supported with building teams from New Zealand by Everest Treks, was demonstrating robust building practices. This meant the villagers helping with the build were learning building skills, which in turn will enable them to build earthquake resistant homes and other buildings, while still preserving the village’s traditional architectural heritage.

Suffice to say, that as good Kiwi handymen Trevor and his son were able to put to excellent use their practical building skills. As Trevor said, “I wasn’t going to travel all that way to build a house that was going to fall down during the next quake or rot in the next monsoon”. Following a week’s work, an L-shaped, two storey house with prayer room stood proudly close-to-completion and the Kiwis left a lot of happy new friends behind.
 
For Trevor, being in Nepal was an experience not to be missed and one in which the opportunity to be practically involved in a project using Rotary raised funds was simply too good to pass up. In June, Trevor and fellow Whakatu Rotarians Julie Bryant and Tony Jemmett, along with Nelson Rotarian Barry Blommaart, Tony’s wife Gill and Julie’s friend, Taradale Rotarian Claire Conner, are travelling to Tavuenui Island in Fiji to work alongside the Rotary Club of Tavuenui Island.  The combined project is to rebuild a fire-damaged concrete block house located at the island’s hospital. Once rebuilt, the five-bedroom house will be used by birthing mothers and family of patients visiting the hospital.