Since 1998 38 WireBridges have been built in Nepal, and well over 3,000,000 passengers have made their way safely to their destination--with no reported injuries. The WireBridges make it practical for many kids to get to school, where otherwise attendence is dangerous, exhausting, or simply not allowed. Over the years a few WireBridges have been replaced by (more expensive) suspended bridges, and a few were destroyed by increasingly violent floods, but 33 remain.
Like all vehicles, these WireBridges need periodic maintenance. During Nepal's years of conflict it was not safe to return to the bridge sites, but now access is possible. Conditions are improving as the population becomes educated and more experienced with self-government, but local communities and the central authorities are not yet ready to maintain the equipment. Our continued interest and support makes a big difference as they develop.
Fourth grade students at the STEM Magnet Lab School in Northglenn, Colorado decided to help. Their message is attached. Our colleagues in Nepal, Village Solutions (VS), can restore the WireBridges. VS have nominated the WireBridge at Gothdanda in Nawalparasi District, where some 40-60 students want to use this bridge.
Restoring the Gothdanda bridge will cost about $3,700. About $3,300 is needed to supplement the STEM students' contribution. With help, we can put this WireBridge back in operation before the monsoon begins in mid-June.
Here is the message from VS: "Thank you for your interest for the repair and maintenance of Tarpul that were built several years before. We have taken [selected] the wire bridge from Gothdanda, Nawalparasi. Due to the lack of repair this wire bridge is not running now and people have to walk two hours to cross the river. Similarly, the school going children have to walk the same distance and takes more hours to go on the other side of the river for their school. The school's name is Bulingtar and 10-15 students used to attend school in 2002. So now the number have gone up to 40-60. There are about 60-70 households."
It has been fourteen years since the first WireBridge was built. Those villagers had asked us for help crossing the polluted Bagmati river that flows from the Kathmandu Valley. Without a bridge they faced a dangerous river crossing or a day and a half to reach the nearest health facility. With the bridge it would be a matter of 'only' a half day. It turned out that the bridge served for other purposes as well--permitting children from a large area to attend a school for the first time. As word spread, other communities requested bridges, and as donors were found, they were built. It became apparent that the measure of impact was not "bridges built" or even the number of passengers moved, but the unrecorded stories--real children in real schools, real access to health care, real ability to visit kin...otherwise separated by a river.
We hope to gather more of those stories as the WireBridge program matures. There will be more frequent trips to the bridge sites to provide maintenance, and these will provide the opportunity to discuss the WireBridge's impacts with the schools and 'mothers groups'. GlobalGiving donors make it possible to keep the path open for these services.
We will never know which young people in Nepal are alive today because of the generosity of yesterday's anonymous donor/bridge-builders. But we know there are many.
The original requests from villagers for help to overcome their unsafe river crossings often speak of the children who were lost. To our knowledge, where the WireBridges were built, there have been no accidents. None.
For your gift to continue moving safely the children and their parents, these bridges must be maintained. And requests for other new bridges are on the table. Contributions through GlobalGiving help make this happen.
Some of Nepal's communities can manage a small contribution to construction and maintenance. But most are extremely poor, and only slowly overcoming a legacy of distrust, and learning the benefits that come from cooperative community effort (read: local fundraising).
The WireBridges serve as both a real and a metaphorical lesson in this process: sacrifice and work together, and everyone benefits.
In December we will visit at least two existing WireBridges and two communities (Dhodeni Phant is one of them) which have asked for bridges. See the next posting ~~ and thank you, each of you, who have pitched in!
Shari Davis & Ellen Currin are InTheField travelers with GlobalGiving who are visiting our partners’ projects throughout Nepal. Their “Postcard” from their most recent visit in Nepal:
Upon entering Nandu Bhandari’s house, it is immediately apparent the space is more than just a home. The dining room table, covered with solar equipment waiting to be sent, is flanked with a wall-size map of Nepal, complete with pins and string denoting the nearly 40 wire bridges that Village Solutions is charged with maintaining. A detailed model of the gondola-style bridge sits on a bookcase and large photo boards line the walls, showcasing the many, various villages benefiting from the organization’s solar light projects.
I sat down with Nandu, had some tea, and he updated me on the work of Village Solutions, Nepal partner to US-based Village Tech Solutions. Nandu spoke of the vital importance of repair and maintenance of these wire bridges, which provide children access to school, pregnant women access to safer birthing options, and countless opportunities for those cut off by a river crossing. There was no staff in his office today, they were all out in the field, working on the solar light project or repairing and maintaining the wire bridges.
Nandu took me around his house, which contained many rooms that had been converted to workshop space. Equipment and tools were everywhere, and there were walls of shelving containing parts manufactured at the office. Though repairs and maintenance for bridges take place at the many bridge locations throughout the country, the repairs for the solar-lights occur right in the office.
When asked what inspires his work, Nandu told a story of a gentleman who walked in to his office and said he had already lost his mother to the river; he wanted a bridge because he didn’t want to lose anyone else. I asked Nandu what about his work makes him happy. “If students have lighting system to do their homework after dark, if they can go about their day without worrying about the river, if they have a smile; if the people are happy, then I am happy.”
Our partner in Nepal, Village Solutions, sent their construction supervisors to the field this past weekend to upgrade four WireBridges. As with any vehicle, occasional maintenance is necessary. They will replace the trolleys, install additional safety equipment and new pulling ropes.
These snow-fed rivers will run year-round, at least until the glaciers have melted! Now, in the monsoon, they are enormous, and an impassable barrier. Their, and our thanks, for the assistance of the many generous donors who invested in these 'transport solutions' in that far corner of the Earth.
Now we are organizing a campaign to raise $100,000 to complete the retrofitting and long term maintenance for the remaining 29 WireBridges!
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