I spent this past weekend traveling to and visiting the All Hands project in the Nuwakot District, where nearly 90 percent of the schools were destroyed. There I got to see how CDP funding and a whole lot of sweat and teamwork is helping rebuild five schools and, ultimately, stronger, more hopeful communities.
Community A deep community spirit drives the All Hands recovery work—from the All Hands teams to the Prithvi principal and the Jalpa families.
Spending time on an All Hands base is a bit like a glorified, grown-up version of summer camp. This particular base was a former hotel. There were open bay bunk beds, shared showers, and outside area with a few “cabins” and tents (pictured right). When you first get there, you sort of feel lost and friendless, like your first day at summer camp. But that changes quickly. People from around the world volunteer on All Hands projects and intense, close friendships come from living in close quarters, working hard all day, and playing hard on breaks.
My morning started with a short weekly meeting followed by a van ride with about 20 others to Prithvi, where I worked alongside the team. Other teams headed out to the more remote sites to work for two weeks at a time. Since the travel time alone makes it unpractical to come back to base every day, those teams camp on site and come back for breaks.
The local community loves having the All Hands teams around. The principal of the Prithvi site school stopped by to greet us. During the build, children meet in temporary buildings around the work site so they can see their school being constructed. This sense of community was even more evident as we traveled to Jalpa.
At the Jalpa site, a tiny village of fourteen families clings to the side of a mountain. About 65 children (from a few nearby villages as well) come here to attend school. So far, one building on the site has been retrofitted. When the team poured concrete for the new building last week, all fourteen families in the village (yes, EVERYONE!) came to help them hand mix and pour the concrete for the building.
Sweat And then there is the sweat. It was amazing to see how much was accomplished with limited power tools. There are power tools on site, to be sure. But I spent the morning bending rebar fittings for earthquake-resistant columns at Prithvi by hand. The team at Jalpa mixed and hand-poured concrete because there is no getting a mixer to that area. These teams have taken what was given to them and increased it hundredfold in sweat equity, and it’s a remarkable thing.
Hope And that brings me to hope. I see so clearly how much the communities are invested in these small and simple schools, and how much teams of volunteers from all over the world have invested their time, their sweat, themselves, that it gives me hope. I only got to spend a day and a half on an All Hands base. But it’s easy to see why so many people show up for a few weeks and decide to stay several months, or continue to return and volunteer on different projects over and over. Because once you’re there, you’re hooked.
You’re hooked on the community. The sweat. The hope.