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HFH Nepal Resumes Hosting Global Village Volunteers With Korean Team

Habitat Also Marks 2,000th House Built In Nepal, Trains Former Bonded Laborers In Sun-Dried Brick Technology

JHAPA, 15th February 2008: With his 25 years of experience in building with bamboo, Habitat for Humanity home partner Kul Bahadur Thakuri did not expect much from the young South Korean volunteers who arrived in eastern Nepal to help him construct his new home. But he was pleasantly surprised, saying that “they did a fantastic job, like a professional”.

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Welcome: The Korean volunteers were the first Global Village team hosted by HFH Nepal after a while.

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Commendable: Though inexperienced, the Korean volunteers were dedicated, winning the praises of Habitat home partners.

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No mean feat: Habitat home partner Kul Bahadur Thakuri (right) was impressed by the Korean team’s professionalism.

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Marked improvement: Habitat home partner Deepa Rai used to live with 10 other family members in the house on the left; her new Habitat house is on the right.

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Alternative technology: A Habitat house that is built with sun-dried bricks.

Accompanied by their teacher, the 16 Korean students were the first Global Village team of volunteers to be hosted by Habitat for Humanity Nepal after a while. The last GV team from Singapore was in Nepal in 2003.

During their week-long build, the Korean volunteers worked on two bamboo houses in Mechinagar municipality, eastern Jhapa district, where Habitat has a partnership with local non-governmental organization Samuhik Hatemalo Sewa Samuha. The environmentally friendly and cost-effective bamboo technology was first showcased in the 1,500th house completed by HFH Nepal in November 2006.

With much enthusiasm, the volunteers tackled tasks such as cutting bamboo into strips which they then wove for use on wall panels. The Korean team also helped to finish the concrete floor of a house.

While it was their first time working with bamboo, the Korean volunteers took to their tasks without much difficulty. Seventy-five year old home partner Kul Bahadur Thakuri was impressed. He said: “Initially I had thought that only one person would come and assist only for a few days but unexpectedly such a huge crowd came and helped to build my house. From my 25 years experience of doing bamboo work it is a difficult task. I thought these volunteer can’t do this task but when they started, within a few hours they did a fantastic job, like a professional. They are working as if they are building their own house, with full commitment and dedication.”

Kul, who is a farmer, his wife Sarita and their four children used to live in a thatched house with bamboo pillars and a weak foundation. With help from the Korean volunteers, his new house started to take shape. Concrete was used for the foundation, floor and pillars with bamboo for wall panels. Parting with the volunteers was difficult, he said. “In these seven days I have found them like butterflies flying and roaming around my house. It makes me sad to realize that they are leaving tomorrow.” Sharing his sentiment, his wife suggested to the volunteers: “Why don’t you purchase a piece of land and build a house here so that we can live together and I can see you forever?”

The volunteers’ presence attracted the national and local newspapers with Nepal’s national television also giving good coverage to the build. In addition, Nepal’s Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Narendra Bikram Nembang, visited the site and thanked the volunteers for their contribution.

Habitat for Humanity began its work in Nepal in 1997. Since mid-2005, activities have been organized as a branch of the Habitat for Humanity International. To date, Habitat has built more than 2,000 houses in Nepal.

The completion of 2,000th house was also celebrated recently. The dedication, in Prithvinagar village, Jhapa, was for home partner Deepa Rai. Married with a young daughter, 20-year-old Deepa used to live with her husband Samson and nine other family members. Home was then a thatched house made of wooden pillars, tin roof and mud floor. Their living space was also shared by the cattle that were kept by Deepa’s parents-in-law.

Deepa said: “I had a dream to have a decent house but we were not capable.” With earnings from the small grocery shop that she started, she joined a women village bank and started saving for her new home. Deepa’s husband also managed to gather raw materials for construction including bamboo. Thanks to HFH Nepal’s help, her dream became a reality. With a solid concrete-and-bamboo home, Deepa is glad that she can now fulfill her mother-in-law’s desire to have fellowship with church friends at home. “Thanks to God, thanks to Habitat… who have enabled us to have a decent house.”

In addition to bamboo technology, Habitat has gone into building with sun-dried bricks in the western Terai region that is rich in good quality mud. Recently HFH Nepal started a program in Bancutowa village, Banke district, to train 72 former Kamaiyas to build with sun-dried bricks. The former Kamaiyas used to work as bonded labor for landowners, sometimes for several generations. They were released from their bondage by the government in 2000. Despite their new-found freedom, life is a daily struggle in their thatched huts and lack of water and sanitation facilities.

Under Habitat’s partnership with the non-governmental organization Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the formerKamaiyas can add an extra room or kitchen at a later stage using their own savings. ADRA will finance additional water and sanitation facilities, and literacy and income-generating projects.