Contributed by Paul Lewis
After several days in Nepal, including two days in the field, my views have changed. My assumption was that everyone was building new homes to replace those destroyed by the 2015 earthquake, and that these new homes would be better, safer, and more capable of serving the needs of the people that lived in them. I thought this was simply an issue of technical skill, logistics, labor and material resources, and money. But the truth is more nuanced and complicated, and Build Change is tackling the issue of home retrofitting. According to Build Change, retrofitting these damaged homes can be cost effective and provide the same space that existed before the home was damaged, in some cases far more than a new home. Because of a lack of funds, new homes often need to be smaller and that impairs how people use their homes as a residence and as a source of income. Multi-story homes provide shelter for people, food and animals that new home solutions often struggle to provide.
Build Change is helping to provide the technical expertise, training, organization and planning to make retrofits a potential solution for the government, NGO’s and homeowners. Winding through all these challenges takes both expertise and persistence that is exhibited in the staff at Build Change. It’s not an easy job, and I found the thought of rebuilding or retrofitting tens of thousands of homes overwhelming. However, my sense of the staff at Build Change is that they are not overwhelmed, but desire more resources to provide help more quickly.
Some homes of course need to be completely rebuilt from the ground up. When we visited the village of Ektephant, we saw several new homes under construction. Those connected to Build Change were being constructed by people trained to build homes to code, with proper materials, and with proper techniques. To further help these small communities, Build Change is working on micro planning to help home spacing, use of land, drainage, and a feeling of community. What are the future challenges? I think it will be funding, certainly, but it will also be the ability of Build Change to lead and not be daunted.