Sep 5, 2015

The People You Meet Along the Way: A New Mountain - Rebuilding Dalchoki School

With its rolling green hills, winding roads through terraced fields and panoramic views of cloud covered mountains, the small and picturesque village of Dalchoki is typical of many rural Nepalese villages. This village of about 1,800 people can be reached in about 2 hours by car from Nepal’s bustling capital city of Kathmandu.  

On April 25th, 2015 the lives of the villagers Dalchoki would change forever. A magnitude 7.8 earthquake shook the earth below their feet as thousands of homes crumbled to dust and the mountains sent rock and ice tumbling down over the villages below. When the earth settled beneath the country, over 9,000 people were dead, over 25,000 injured and 2.5 million people were left homeless or displaced. 

In Dalchoki, the sweeping views of Kathmandu which once revealed a bustling metropolis, hills dotted with temples and local people forging a life out of the earth, now revealed an ominous plume of ancient brown dust which slowly lifted to reveal the devastation and tragedy below. 

In Dalchoki, over 90% of the houses collapsed. Those homes were left standing were left with long jagged scars cutting through the walls and foundations. Those that crumbled buried the dead and trapped the injured. Whilst waves of aftershocks rumbled from below, those that survived faced shortages of food, drinking water, medical supplies. In addition, those that survived needed the tools and the means to begin to rebuild their homes in light of the impending monsoon and the ability to prepare for the future ahead.

The international headlines documenting the scale of the humanitarian crisis disappeared long ago. Unfortunately however, long-term challenges impacting men, women and children across the nation remain. One of these challenges is Education, the key to providing hope for the future.'

Pre-Expedition Planning: “The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth” (Erasmus)

Dalchoki’s main Secondary School and the largest school in the district, ‘Shree Goth Bhanjyang’ once welcomed 450 students and 17 teachers from surrounding villages. On April 25th the school and its 11 classrooms were either badly damaged or completely destroyed.  Fortunately it was a Saturday and the children were not in school - otherwise the headlines would have been much more tragic.

Today, nearly 5 months after the earthquake, the students of Dalchoki are still in need of properly equipped classrooms that go beyond lines of their current make-shift benches and temporary structures which are susceptible to the wind, rain and snow. An environment which is once again viewed as a ‘safe haven’ which encourages learning, group work and activities is desperately needed. 

There are also silent after-effects of the earthquake that go beyond the dust and beyond the rubble. The psychological impact will leave scars on these children long after the rebuild has started.  Still today, children continue to live in fear, many still suffering trauma and stress. Support is needed through counselling and simple motivation – e.g. through the provision of food, and a safe and fun learning environment – to get them back into the classrooms and collaborative, safe learning environments. 

A new mountain... "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do..." (John Wooden)

In October I'll travel to Dalchoki to kick off this significant rebuilding project with the support of the Sherpa Adventure Gear Paldorje Education Foundation and The Nth Degree. It’s my new 'mountain', a new challenge, a new journey – a proverbial one for a change – but equally as demanding with a longer-term legacy, a bigger scope and more stakeholders than any challenge that I’ve taken on in the past. I meet this challenge with an even greater sense of trepidation, planning and responsibility.

In my ‘day job’ as a consultant, I’m used to managing change and putting organizational, communications and stakeholder management skills into overdrive to lead and /or facilitate an organization or group of people from getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’. Apart from a number of (quite epic!) forts we used to build around our farm in rural Canada when I was growing up, I’ve never built a thing in my life… But this opportunity to learn and discover new skills, meeting new people, combining my personal and professional interests and, most importantly, making a difference excites and invigorates me. 

Over the coming months I’ll be sharing the details of this journey and welcome any input / tips / words of wisdom / contacts / helping hands etc. that you might have.  Please do feel free to get in touch directly via email,

Huge thanks in advance to Sherpa Adventure Gear, the Paldorje Education Foundation and The Nth Degree for your support thus far.


October 2015:
8-10 days in October initial planning / build with ongoing in-country support post build via contact from the Paldorje Education Foundation 
- Research building design options (eg. California Institute of Earth and Architecture)
- Study and evaluate design / construction of similar ‘earthquake-proof’ schools in the area (eg. Phulkharka School also going through a rebuilding project)
- Understand local pool of labour / skills and the gap for what’s required
- Understand available resources for building and the gap for what’s required
- Meet key local stakeholders 

March - April 2016:
- Skilled laborers and helping hands to support the rebuilding of the classrooms
- Helping hands to support ‘decorating’ / kitting out the classrooms
- Help in working with the students to provide emotional support
- Basic supplies including stationary – papers, pens, books
- Funding for ‘meal a day’ programmes to pay for school lunches
- Support in sourcing materials needed and transportation to Dalchoki

Estimated Financial support required to support the rebuild: $40,000 USD.

Dalchocki School before the earthquake (Picture: ECCA)
Children playing with the destroyed school in background (Picture: ECCA)
Temporary school building (Picture: ECCA)
Temporary school building (Picture: ECCA) 
Damage from 25 April Earthquake on one of the main classrooms (Picture: ECCA)



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