This is the diary I kept of my involvement in the West Yorkshire Scouts Project Nepal – we trained for a year to go to Nepal in October 2008 and build a hostel for a moutain village school. This was without a doubt one of the best and most exciting things I have ever done in my life!

Nov 2007

I am currently raising funds to go to Nepal next October to build a hostel for a school in a remote village which is why I have been frantically making Xmas ornies . We need to raise £10,000 for the build and extra to get us all there.The picture below is of the existing school in a village called Melamchigaun.
Melamchi school

This is a project organised through West Yorkshire Scouts (called Project Nepal!) and there are 43 of us involved – all involved in Scouting and all ages but only 8 women – all the rest are men! We are training for the work by having one weekend a month doing practical building to develop our skills and I am pleased to say that I can now mix mortar and cement by hand and with a mixer (not that we will have any of those in Nepal!), and build walls with rough stone and breeze blocks.As part of this training we are going to build a practice building at our Scout camp site Bradley Wood for the site to use as a new camp office and shop.

We will be working with a charity called Community Action Nepal and the hostel is for the children who use the school to sleep in as many have to travel a long way to it from their villages. The village we are going to is a day and a half walk from the nearest road so we will be trekking in and out. I am really excited as I have always wanted to go to Nepal (for the mountains!) but am also really pleased to be able to get involved in this project. We will also be doing some work to improve the water supplies in the village.

Water project in Nepal

Nepal is such a beautiful country – the picture below shows one of the other villages where CAN has helped build a school.
Nepal village

As well as the build we get to do an activity – I have chosen white water rafting which sounds a bit scary! We also will hopefully be able to go on a flight over Everest which should be amazing and spend a couple of days in Kathmandu visting temples.

Fundraising update – Jan 08

I have managed to raise £358 through making my Xmas ornies so thank you very much to everyone has donated. I spent most of my time in Spain cross stitching some more snowflake ornies for next year – both for fundraising for me and for Ellen to go to Kosovo for the summer school in July. This year I started in Sept which left me a bit pushed for time near the end so I thought I would get ahead. My aim is to stitch about 60 this year and I will make more pine cones as well in the autumn as they were really popular and I got some fab ribbon in Spain!

Last weekend we were involved in a Christmas tree collection event in our area along with some of the rest of the Project Nepal team. This was done last year very successfully to raise money for the World Jamboree that some of our Scouts and leaders went to so this year we took over.

In total we collected 600 trees over the weekend and raised around £2,500. So thank you very much to all the lovely people who donated (and especially the ones that gave us chocolate!). We collected trees all day Saturday and then spent Sunday with Phillip chipping them – another skill to add to my portfolio. We were all very sore on Monday as between us we shifted and lifted about 500 trees into the chipper but this event means that I am nearly halfway to my fundraising total!

 

Training weekend update – Jan 08

As part of the project we are learning some practical skills so that when we get to Nepal we can build with confidence (and hopefully with straighter walls than we have been doing so far!). We have had training weekends once a month since Sept at the local Scout camp site where we have been learning to do bricklaying and joinery. At the moment we are building some storage bays out of blocks with timber framing on the top. Below are some pics from this weekend of my handiwork and some of the team.

I laid the bottom two courses (rows) of this wall.

Alison’s wall

Here are from left to right Philip and Graham (Project Leaders) in discussion with Bob and Roger about the finer points of the design – like why there are wonky bits and a 2 inch drop from one end of walling to the other! We are of course practising to build on the Nepali hillsides!
Project team 1

Here you see that slight difference in the wall levels with Liz, Tim and Will listening to Philip explain how the rest of the build will be far more level – bit like his arm!
Project team 2

Here Tim and Liz demonstrate how their bit was fine – it was the other wall that was too low!

Project team 3

Graham, Garry and Philip try looking from further away to see if the gap is noticeable from there!

Three wise men

We had another fab weekend with only a bit of rain – not like the rest of this week so we have been very lucky. I also had a demonstration of how to make a mortise and tenon joint so am looking forward to a bit of chiselling on the next training weekend!

Graham, Philip , Julie and Kay went on a visit to the village in Nepal before Xmas to talk to the villagers about the build and they gave us a report back on Saturday. It was fantastic to see the actual site (and actual toilets!) that we will be going to and to hear specific details of the build. Everything is really coming together now and I am getting very excited about going. The facilities on the trek to the village and the catering sound excellent – I was expecting really basic food but it looks fabulous as do the views.

I think I am going to change activities though. I was going to go white water rafting but the river they have chosen is a grade 3/4 (they go up to 5). Since I am not that good with water activities (and sometimes have problems with my old cesarean/hysterectomy scar which means I have to bit a bit careful when it comes to wrenching it) I am concerned that I might not be able to cope and don’t want to spoil it for myself and others .

My Mum was worried about me going white water rafting so instead I have chosen to paragliding in Pokhara – much safer (look Mum no hands!). You can also do a mountain bike activity with views  of the Annapurna range and possibly a microlight flight. This is a pic of Pokhara – if that isn’t heaven on earth I don’t know what is! Look everyone mountains!

Pokhara

March 08

A very exciting training weekend this month. I was not able to attend the last one due to a dreadful ear and chest infection but things are moving along excellently with the build. The walls of the new storage sheds were mostly completed last time as was the woodwork for the roof trusses so this weekend we started on the roofing and the cladding as well as one team doing the marking out and clearing of the main site where the building in Yorkshire will eventually go.

We now have plans for the build in Nepal so as well as the actual practical building we were discussing what we will be doing out there over a few beers in the evening (well and the girls were also discussing underwear!). There is a suggestion that when we are in the village for the build we will pay one of the local women to do our laundry so we were discussing the all important topic of knicker identification. The boys do not seem to be bothered about this as they seem to think it will be first come first served for the clean pants but we girls know the importance of properly fitting undergarments when you are doing strenuous activity and as we all agreed it is each to their own – there are those that feel best in the skimpy next to nothing sort and those who prefer Bridget Jones big pants. And you wouldn’t want to end up with the wrong ones!

Anyway back to the practical stuff. Part of the reason why this weekend was so exciting for me was that I got to use POWER TOOLS! For years I have stood bored in B and Q (the local DIY store) while people admire mitre saws and angle grinders and the like and not really seen the thrill but this weekend I was given free rein. Starting with the electric drill which I quickly got the hang of and then moving on to the CHOP SAW (and no before you ask like all the rest of the blokes on the project I still have all my fingers thanks – need them for the embroidery and knitting so was very careful!). That was a bit scary at first but I got the hang of it and did loads of sawing with it. Of course we will not have much in the way of power tools in Nepal so also did some hand sawing which I could already do.

Other big thrill was that Liz and I did our first two mortice and tenon joints to enable us to fit the shed uprights – we will be doing a lot of these in Nepal. Ever since I was a teenager (in the all girls school that only did cookery and needlework)  I have always wanted to do woodwork so was very pleased when it all worked.

The final thrill was when Philip let me have ago on his mini digger to move some of the earth from the floor of the storage sheds. Sadly I do not have a picture of me in action on it but I did manage to master the getting the bucket up and down and scraping the earth up (all without damaging the very low roof of the shed so was very pleased!) Bob the Builder move over – Al is here!!!

 

May 2008 The real thing!

This weekend we worked on the real building at the camp site which is our practise for the hostel in Nepal. The digging out of the foundations had already been done by members of the team on the last training weekend and on a few day and evenings slots over the last two weeks. This weekend was particularly important as all (well nearly all) of the team were there and we were working in the smaller teams that we will be in when we go to Nepal. I am in a stone work team of six people and this weekend we all worked together on lots of different aspects of the stone work. There is another stone team, two timber teams, one water team and a ‘floating’ team that will support any area when needed.

I learnt a new skill this weekend – that of cutting concrete blocks to size with a hammer and chisel. Thanks to Bev for training me on this and for persisting when I did not seem to be getting anywhere. I really appreciate the support of everyone on the project (particularly Andrew, Bev and David on my team) as I have no previous experience of building and do need very step by step instructions most of the time (as well as learning not to fall off the scaffold plank or off the joists!).

We got a really brilliant amount done this weekend despite a two hour hiatus due to very bad rain on Sun afternoon and the place now looks like a building. It has walls, door frames and all the windows have been made. We have also sorted 25 million bits of stone (well it felt like that!) into size so that part of the building can look very much like the one in Nepal. (Move more stone Phillip – count me in!)

Once again we had a really good time socially on all three evenings – with a great night last night ‘evaluating’ the funniest bits of the weekend and doing the risk assessment – what if someone gets eaten by a yak, or the plane crashes and we end up in a real- life version of Lost , or (god forbid) we run out of beer ?.

I am really looking forward to my next weekend at the project which will be in July ( we will be at a re-enactment event in June.