One brick at a time: Rebuilding Giranchaur

By McCall Mash

It started as a normal April day for Batuli Tamang. She was inside her house in the small village of Giranchaur, Sindhupalchowk, and going about her midday chores in preparation for a festival.

Tamang said she heard a low rumble first and then everything started violently shaking.

“I was inside my house preparing to go to a [festival],” she said. “Suddenly, I felt the shock and rushed out of the house. After I came out of the house — I saw my house falling apart in front of my eyes.”

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake in 2015 destroyed Nepal — killing nearly 9,000 people, injuring 22,000 and displacing 450,000. The nation was in rubble, and the homes of Tamang and Giranchaur’s 350 villagers were destroyed.

Tamang said the first thing she could think of after the trembling stopped was if her two children, who were playing outside, were safe.

“The first thing [that] came in my mind during the shake was, ‘Now I won't survive,’” she said. “After, I rushed out [of my house] and managed to save my life… And I was worried about my children who had gone out to play.”

However, she said she paused before looking for her children and saw every house in her village leveled.

“It was my house that I lost," Tamang said. "And I was left with the question, ‘Now what? Where do I live now?’”

For days following the earthquake, Tamang and the other villagers lived in tents before building the temporary shelters that they still occupy.

“I was in Kathmandu [during the earthquake] and came to the village the same evening,” said Karma Lama, the chairperson of the Namdoling Integrated Village and Culture Preservation Committee and a Giranchaur resident. “When I rushed back, I saw almost all the houses had fallen apart and people all gathering around. The safest place to live then was the top of the nearby monastery, where people all lived together — they all cooked and ate together because they had nowhere else to go.”

Lama said the villagers took 10 days before looking for alternatives because they “didn’t have the courage to build temporary houses.”

Now Giranchaur’s residents are getting their lives back through Chaudhary Foundation, CG Corp Global’s philanthropic organization that helped lead Nepal in reconstruction efforts after the earthquake.

Binod Chaudhary, the founder of Chaudhary Foundation and chairman of CG Corp Global, rushed from Chitwan National Park with two of his sons to organize relief efforts in Kathmandu immediately following the earthquake.

Since then, Chaudhary has dedicated millions of dollars through the Chaudhary Foundation to rebuild damaged schools and homes, including those in Giranchaur.

Chaudhary Foundation selected Giranchaur as the location for its "Model Village" two years ago because it was recommended by Nepal Reconstruction Authority (NRA), according to Amir Thapa, the manager of the Chaudhary Foundation.

“This project will be a milestone in my life,” Thapa said. “I have worked in areas affected by the earthquake since the day after it happened — I have committed my time and energy to bring people relief from this terrible disaster from the very beginning. To be able to lead this for Chaudhary Foundation is very important for me and Nepal.”

Chaudhary Foundation partnered with Build Up Nepal, who provided brick production equipment and training, which started in September 2018. Construction for the houses is expected to begin within the next few months.

Seventy houses will be built to follow updated earthquake safety guidelines by using the interlocking bricks made from locally sourced, sustainable materials.

“We don’t want to spend the rest of [our lives] in a temporary shed,” said Bil Bahadur Tamang, one of the residents. “A few people have already died before even seeing their new permanent house, and we really are looking for the Foundation's support to complete the houses.”

Both Bil Bahadur Tamang and Lama said beyond the peace of mind that permanent housing will give them, it will also improve the villager’s quality of life and health. At least six villagers have died because of medical conditions related to living in the temporary shelters — including extreme temperatures and respiratory issues.

“It has now been over three years since the earthquake," Bil Bahadur Tamang said. "We are still living in a temporary shed — it is very difficult for us to live there. In summer it is too hot and it is too cold in winter. We are desperately looking to have a permanent house.”

Lama noted that living in temporary shelters has also created a gap between the villagers and their customs and traditions.

“Our customs and culture have also been affected,” he said. “Maybe after having the model village, we could again be able to celebrate our customs and traditions together.”

Chaudhary Foundation will continue developing Giranchaur after the homes are completed to follow the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and will be one of the first villages to follow this model. Chaudhary Foundation will implement at least 10 SDGs projects — including education programs, a community center and a water filtration system.

Beyond its ongoing earthquake relief, the foundation has health, livelihood, enterprise, education and cultural preservation projects.

“I still recall the devastating earthquake and the turmoil — the fear in the face of the poor villagers,” Lama said. “People are still not able to come out of that phase. Hence, the completion of this project would just be healing the wound that the earthquake has created in their lives.”