Rebuilding Nepal – One Year On
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Rebuilding Nepal – One Year On

Following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015 and the subsequent 7.4 quake that hit near Mount Everest some 17 days later, the country of Nepal faced its worst disaster in decades. In April 2016 Credit Suisse employees from across the Asia-Pacific region travelled to Nepal to take part in a two day build with Habitat for Humanity. 

A total of 41 volunteers came together to contribute towards the rebuilding phase in the country, one year after the earthquakes that caused such devastation. This was a volunteering opportunity to support disaster relief in the region and the first time a regional APAC group of Credit Suisse staff had participated in a build with Habitat.

Side by Side 

A call for volunteers to work on a Habitat build in Kavre district was broadcast to all large Asia-Pacific offices in February 2016 and the response was overwhelming with over 250 employees expressing interest to sign up. The group of volunteers from Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Seoul and Australia arrived in Kathmandu on April 27, ready for the task ahead. Kavre district is about 30km from Kathmandu, a mainly rural area of scattered villages where farmers grow crops and raise livestock. Habitat has been assisting families in Kavre since the earthquakes with temporary shelter kits and rubble removal and are now in the reconstruction phase as part of their 'Build Nepal' strategy - a long-term, post-earthquake recovery program of five years. 

Side by side with the home owners and local village crews, the Credit Suisse volunteers split into 8 'build teams' and labored on 11 houses at various stages of construction: mixing cement, digging foundations and laying bricks. Over the two days they contributed a total of 430 hours to the construction efforts. 

Learning from the Community

Working alongside the villagers was an inspiration for many of the volunteers. Jan Hofmann, Vice President Private Banking from Singapore said: "Helping a small Nepalese community rebuilding their homes was an unforgettable and inspiring experience. During the two days we split into groups, each contributing to different phases of the building process and closely working together with the local population. We left the site full of dust and with sore muscles but infected by the positive spirit of these people who since the earthquake haven’t had a proper place to sleep and still approach life with a smile and an attitude of gratitude." 

One of the build teams joined forces with Sharada Danuwar. Sharada is 22 years old, and like nearly everyone else in her community, she lost her family home when the quakes hit. Since then, she and her extended family of eight have been living in a temporary shelter they built with materials from Habitat for Humanity. And, like others in her community, Sharada is attempting to turn loss into gain. Informal on-the-job mason training is a component of Habitat’s village reconstruction project and Sharada decided that she wants to learn to be a mason. "I like to learn, and want to be a skilled mason," said Sharada. "I want to prove to myself that I can do everything that the boys can do, and be an inspirational woman to my village."

The Spirit of Volunteering and Partnership

The volunteers experienced a real sense of satisfaction at the tangible results of their efforts when reflecting on the two day build. Daniel A. Barnett, Analyst IBCM Australia Corporate Advisory from Sydney office touched on the spirit of volunteerism in summing up his experience: "People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons; for me it provides a sense of purpose. And it was great to see our organisation come together as a team, supporting a real cause. Sometimes an opportunity looks good on paper, and the reality is even better." 

Habitat's Global Village team's enthusiasm and professionalism were also noticed and very much appreciated by our Credit Suisse volunteers. They were pleased to see first-hand the contribution Habitat is making on a grassroots level in Nepal on this one year anniversary of the earthquakes.

"I was extremely impressed by the effort taken by Habitat for Humanity to develop the required skill set on the ground, work out a complete project plan, get the buy-in from the impacted families and get them to participate in the build effort. As a technology person, understanding the aspects of building an earthquake proof house was an excellent learning for me and the experience of working with our Credit Suisse volunteers in building the various houses was priceless," said Ashwinkumar Rao, Vice President Global Markets Technology from Pune. 

"Credit Suisse has not only been a donor for Habitat's earthquake response, they took the extra step of sending their staff to volunteer and work side by side with us and members of the community to help rebuild Nepal. For that, they will always have our gratitude," said Rick Hathaway, Habitat for Humanity vice president for Asia-Pacific. 

Looking ahead

Habitat anticipates the completion of construction on 87 houses in Kavre by March 2017, and has finalized the organization's new 'Build Nepal'-strategy. The Credit Suisse team of volunteers from Asia Pacific has built a connection to the families in Kavre through this April build and is representative of the larger population of employees from across the bank who contributed to the funding of this reconstruction and who support the ongoing development of the local community as they rebuild their lives.