Friday, December 21, 2012

Construction Completed!

Unfortunately, my illness took me through the final week of my construction placement - I was able to do a little bit of gentle painting but the heavy work, mixing cement and concrete and hefting large quantities of bricks around, was very much beyond me. However, the construction at Urbana School was almost complete anyway, we were only working on a future canteen project (now on hiatus with the foundations complete) and, as the last ever construction volunteer there, I couldn't feel too guilty while wrapped up in bed!

So, therefore I present to you, many views of Urbana School in its now-finished form:

Entrance road to the school. I helped grade the road, built the pavement substructure (and the speed bump), prepared the foundations on the left for a new wall, and painted the walls white and orange.

Also the car park. The wall on the right was painted by Archie and me.

The main school playground, with Nicky's fantastic mural on the wall. A real labour of love, that one!

Here are the foundations in the state I left them. My job here was to do a lot of the digging and then 'hiding' all the spoil by levelling the mound in the middle. I also helped shift thousands of bricks and mixed plenty of cement, assisting Don Bardur with the bricklaying.

This is the new vegetable patch and the the wall behind, built by Donny and painted repeatedly by Archie and me. We also painted the back wall and built a small footpath from the kitchen to the back gate (mostly smashed up thanks to one guy's attempt to fit a couple of locks!) and re-organised the building material storage.

The back wall which we traipsed down to deliver building materials to the compound wall project. We also painted the walls here white - not with brushes, but by sloshing any remaining paint left over from other walls! Very quick and effective (though a bit wasteful).

The back wall, built by Don Bardur, Archie, Michael, Donny and myself. A work of art! I installed many of the nails on the top.

View of the whole compound, including the Dave wall and the rice paddy I helped cut.

A photo I've been waiting for ages for! 'Colin' is a very popular brand of vinegar-based cleaning product out here...

And finally, to say farewell to Don Bardur and thank him for all his help and positivity (despite our general incompetence), I bought him some Buff Momos. He's always going on about them - but apparently they are too expensive for him, about 30 Rupees. So I bought him a plate of 10 on behalf of me and Kit.

"Meeto chha!"

So that's the end of construction for me. What do I think of the experience? At first, it seemed ideal. A bit later when we got to know Nepal we all started to think - what with Urbana being a very nice preschool already, it felt like we were just 'polishing' something when our combined efforts could potentially revolutionise a different school in a much worse state.

But we came to realise a few things, too:

Firstly, it's just as important to finish a project well as it is to start it well. It sets an example and raises standards overall. This school didn't exist 2 years ago, and if it had just been left in a half-finished state then it would be very much like the rest of the country.
Secondly, working in and around the kids and Nepali labourers, we were showing how to do jobs properly and work hard even when no-one else is looking. Don Bardur already knows this but Bal said he's very much in the minority.
Thirdly, if any Nepalis are looking to set up a preschool, they could come to Urbana (especially having seen the adverts on TV) and take back the high standards to their own schools - in fact they'll need to in order to compete. In this way we're raising standards in many different schools at once!
And finally, as the final Construction volunteers, our jobs were always going to be 'finishing' jobs. From next year, IDF-Nepal is building a whole new orphanage from scratch which will be such an exciting task for any of the new construction volunteers from BUNAC or elsewhere.

So I will definitely give the placement a firm 8 out of 10. All of the above I have fed back to Bal and he was very grateful for my feedback - especially some suggestions that didn't make it onto the blog. And if you're a potential volunteer yourself, just send me an email to learn more. c j field at gmail dot com.

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