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!
Since 1998 thirty eight WireBridges have been built over Nepal's rivers. We estimate these made possible more than 3 million crossings, all without accident.
Sparked by pleas from rural villagers, this low-cost solution emerged from countless volunteer hours, donations from individuals and institutions, and the patience and dedication of a great Nepalese construction team.
With a decade of experience, Village Solutions, the Nepalese affiliate, will will soon start refitting each of the bridges. The upgrades will include a new trolley design (for longer service life), additional safety gear, new ropes, etc. The team will also collect photos and anecdotes from the local users, which we hope to relay back to you, our supporters.
Current donations will be used for four bridges: Thumka ~ 128 meters, Gadhi II ~ 80 meters, Jaldevighat ~ 170 meters, and Sukaura ~ 165 meters. This requires $ 13,800; $ 11,600 is on hand; $ 2.200 to go!
All together the daily traffic on these four bridges is nearly 800 round trips -- for school, health care, market access. That's impact!
Please help us to keep our students (and their parents) aloft!
If you follow the tale of Nepal's politics, you know that after many years all parties to the long conflict are now part of the government. For our bridge-building colleagues in Village Solutions, the startup founded by our former EcoSystems manager, this means that now they can safely send a crew to each WireBridge for routine maintenance. This was not possible for a long time.
It costs between $18,000 and $26,000 to build a WireBridge today, roughly the price of a very inexpensive auto. To maintain a WireBridge we estimate is probably less than that for a car--perhaps around $600 per year. Most of this expense is to replace the tow rope, and periodically to replace the only moving parts: the metal wheels and bearings. A team of volunteer engineers is presently reviewing the design of this "trolley" with the goal of substantially extending the running life, and thus reducing the maintenance cost.
The thirtytwo existing WireBridges will be put on a routine maintenance program. These provide the missing link to school for hundreds of children -- a very effective way to provide reliable access to school, and key infrastructure for the economic and social life of these communities.
Our thanks to every GlobalGiving donor who has helped these thousands of people to reach their goals.
After a few days in the scenic hills of Nepal, you the visitor will begin to see the barriers that confront the local people. As you might expect, this often puts an education almost beyond reach. Many children can't get to a school safely during the monsoon--rivers block their path. Many children have no way to study at home once the sun is down for at best they have only hearth light.
VillageTech Solutions (USA) and our partner VillageSolutions (Nepal) developed this WireBridge (project #4522) and the EcoLight systems (project #3925) as solutions for many of the communities and households.
As with our own vehicles and home appliances, all mechanical systems require maintenance--including of course the WireBridges. The communities as well as their central government have few resources, and for now are unable to maintain this infrastructure.
To keep the paths to school open, we need sponsors to "Adopt-a-Bridge", just as we do to keep our own highways clean. Much like helping an individual child in school, this amounts to sponsoring a trail-full of children. No need to build another school--just make sure the kids can get there and back home safely. Stay tuned--we'll present a bridge, ready for adoption shortly.
VTS and VillageSolutions are already starting the rehabilitation of two of the bridges thanks to generous donors.
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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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