In two weeks the Museum of Science in Boston will complete a short video about the summer 2013 upgrade of a WireBridge in Nepal. As we reported last time, a remarkable series of events caused this village's WireBridge to be repaired:
And it is no surprise that what these gifts brought to these children was ... 'health, education, and hope'. In the next report we will post a link to this beautiful video. For now, here is the trail to school--and the river now bridged:
In July a repair team from VillageTech Solutions travelled in the middle of the monsoon to a village in Nawalparasi, Nepal to repair a WireBridge built eight years ago. A photographer friend went along and captured moments of this difficult journey (3 days to cover what would be less that one day in the dry season). This restoration trip was inspired by a Colorado STEM magnet school's 4th grade class. They had studied the construction of WireBridges (TarPul) in a module provided by Boston's Museum of Science in their Engineering is Elementary series. The students thought so highly of these bridges that they organized their own fundraiser, which provided the seed capital for this repair trip.
Approximately 60 students use this WireBridge to reach their school, but of course the villagers benefit as well, being able to get to their fields across the river safely. VTS provided drawing materials, which the students used to illustrate a view of their world--the homes, school, river--and TarPul.
The cost to build and to maintain a bridge serving the entire community is about the same as we pay for a personal vehicle: $22,000 to 25,000 to build, about $ 3,000 for a major overhaul, and then about $600/year to maintain. Until the local government is willing and able to provide these maintenance funds, the villagers will depend upon us to keep the wheels turning. VTS is working with local social entrepreneurs to persuade the government to take responsibility for maintenance so that our efforts can be on construction of bridges to serve isolated communities.
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 Over the years a few WireBridges have been replaced by (more expensive) suspended bridges, and a few were destroyed by increasingly violent floods, but 33 remain.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!
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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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