Nepal Update: Not just another way to earn an income

Mason Training in Bijulikot, Nepal, 2016

It didn’t matter that he was a mason, or that he had been building homes for seven years. When the earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015, Uday’s two-storey home collapsed just like so many others did.

Homes in this mountainous region of Nepal are often made of stone and mud because these materials are affordable and readily available in local markets. They are not very safe or sturdy as building materials, however, which is a major reason why 500,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the earthquakes.

Uday, 29, became determined to learn new construction techniques that would make the homes he builds stronger and more resilient if another earthquake should hit the region. “Before the earthquake, I thought being a mason was just another way to earn an income for my family,” said Uday.

 


In March, Uday attended an intensive five-day mason training session delivered by Medair, where he learned many techniques for building safer and more resilient houses. “Before, I copied what others were doing to learn masonry techniques, without being certain how scientific they were,” said Uday. “Now I feel confident. I have learned the importance of using sill band in a house, using vertical reinforcements to make strong corners, and the correct percentage of closed walls to open doors and windows.


 

Medair is holding these mason-training sessions in multiple locations in Nepal. Our expert trainers combine theory with practice to give local masons the skills and knowledge they need to rebuild stronger homes for their communities. In total, Medair has trained more than 150 masons so far this year.

One of the masons was so inspired by what he had learned and the new sense of purpose it gave him that he wrote a poem and sang it to the class. In his poem, Arjun, 25, reflected on the destruction caused by the earthquakes and urged everyone to learn from past mistakes and build safer shelters now. His poem summarised what he had learned from the workshop in a way that made it easy to remember the training in the future.

As Arjun sees it, one of the biggest challenges for safely rebuilding mountain villages is going to be the high cost of importing good-quality construction materials. Yet he is now sure it’s worth the effort. “I am ready to convince people to prioritise quality over cost,” he said.


The Nepal earthquakes killed more than 8,000 people and left more than 500,000 families without safe shelter, exposing them to severe weather conditions.  Nepal is at high risk for future earthquakes, which is why it is so important to train masons to build back better.