Earthbag School Agara, Oct. 29th-Nov. 10th.

After much deliberation, delays, dedication, adaptation and good fun, the materials for the Agara school build have finally arrived along with the volunteers to assemble the village's first earthquake resilient earthbag structure ! Let the barb wire roll! Let the bags be filled tamped and levelled. Onward !

Villagers of Agara pick up the tools and skills quickly as the building team moves forward into the first couple earthbag courses, a huge relief after smashing the foundation gravel by hand for a week.

Villagers of Agara pick up the tools and skills quickly as the building team moves forward into the first couple earthbag courses, a huge relief after smashing the foundation gravel by hand for a week.

October 29th finally happened to be the day when the building materials, food and volunteers all departed Kathmandu to the remote village of Agara, Makwanpur. Initially the idea was to depart Kathmandu at 7am to arrive in Agara in the early evening, but due to the fuel crises delays, we were able to leave at 6pm ! 

View of the cue for petrol at a station in Teku, Kathmandu. Our delivery truck had to wade through the waves of traffic for hours to finally move onto the highway to Makwanpur.  

View of the cue for petrol at a station in Teku, Kathmandu. Our delivery truck had to wade through the waves of traffic for hours to finally move onto the highway to Makwanpur.  

After an 11 hour delay, an overnight stop, a rain storm and multiple mud stuck moments, the supplies finally arrived in Agara, but the waiting was not over yet ! 

After an 11 hour delay, an overnight stop, a rain storm and multiple mud stuck moments, the supplies finally arrived in Agara, but the waiting was not over yet ! 

As we rounded the contours of the lush mountain roads, rainy conditions delayed the truck one more day from reaching the school's drop off site. Volunteers were greeted warmly amidst the unseasonably cool and wet conditions by the villager host's. The children were quick to help set up tent accommodations, and happily jump up and down to tamp the ground flat for the weary travellers to rest comfortably.

Children greet volunteers and supply truck at the drop off turn around point. 

Children greet volunteers and supply truck at the drop off turn around point. 

The school remained another 10 minute hike by foot up a steep terraced slope and was only possible because of the many helping hands of children, teens and adults, who were eager to move the supplies to the school. A truly galvanizing moment to know and see that after over a month of planning and perseverance, materials finally landed. 

Let the Smashing Begin ! 
Due to the difficult access to the remote building site in Agara, it made more sense economically, ecologically and socially to smash the rubble from the old school into gravel for the foundation of the new school. Shipping prepped gravel by truck was certainly not a realistic option as the price of ordering trucks was through the roof. This gravel job was big, as an estimated 500 cubic feet of gravel were needed to fill the school's foundation. Teams of locals were employed to help break down the rubble from the old to create the solid base for the new. A week of rock crushing by hand, filling the trench with the french drain with layers of rubble and gravel was no task for the faint of heart.

A section of the rubble pile from the remains of the the earthquake destruction. Smash On ! 

A section of the rubble pile from the remains of the the earthquake destruction. Smash On ! 

Villagers smile during a jokingly afternoon smashing rubble from the destroyed school into gravel for the new foundation.

Villagers smile during a jokingly afternoon smashing rubble from the destroyed school into gravel for the new foundation.

Moving buckets of freshly smashed gravel to fill the foundation trench as students stand by. 

Moving buckets of freshly smashed gravel to fill the foundation trench as students stand by. 

Filling the first of three courses of gravel bags for the foundation with Volunteer Florian Cuisset. 

Filling the first of three courses of gravel bags for the foundation with Volunteer Florian Cuisset. 

Lining the course with barbed wire to hitch the bags together. Let it Roll !

Lining the course with barbed wire to hitch the bags together. Let it Roll !

The work carried on steadily with only 2 afternoon breaks between October 29th and November 10th. The restful and enlightening holiday festival of Tihar has now arrived. The crew expresses its sincerest gratitude to the people of Agara who have graciously and gratefully welcomed the earthbag building volunteers into their community with song, celebration and the finest dahl bhat ever ! 3 hours of non-stop improvised song and dance strung together multiple verses expressing their love and appreciation for the volunteers and each other ! Happy Tihar ! 

Volunteers, Village leaders and the beloved cook at the campsite. From left to right, ( volunteer Arnaud, village leader Tikaram Rumba Lama, volunteer Erich Burton, Sundar the cook, Translator DN, Nish Dai, Volunteer Florian, Engineer Nitesh.    Article and Photos by Volunteer Erich Burton  

Volunteers, Village leaders and the beloved cook at the campsite. From left to right, ( volunteer Arnaud, village leader Tikaram Rumba Lama, volunteer Erich Burton, Sundar the cook, Translator DN, Nish Dai, Volunteer Florian, Engineer Nitesh. 
 

Article and Photos by Volunteer Erich Burton