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  • TRAINEE REPORT LAPRAK MODEL SETTLEMENT Vincent HischierDuring the devastating earthquake in 2015 in Nepal the attempts to set up a student exchange program in Nepal through the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAES-TE) were postponed. Two years later a joint venture between the Non-Residential Nepal Association NRNA and IAESTE led to the employment of 40 civil enginee-ring and architectural students from all over the world to help building a model settlement in Laprak in Gorkha district, the epicentre of the earthquake in 2015. At the same time a Nepali student was allowed to go on an exchange program abroad.

    Should this project be successful a cornerstone would have been laid to set up an IAESTE program also in Nepal, which would allow the exchange between Ne-pali and international students in the future.

    Together with another swiss student sent by IAESTE Switzerland I was able to spend one month at a camp at 2700m above sea level to help building a new village consisting of 573 houses. The ancient village of Laprak lies in an area threatened by landslides and therefore has to be moved. Next to the camp for the 40 students there was another camp inhabited by approximately 200 soldiers from the Nepali army who also helped to rebuild the village. Furthermore, there were local wor-kers and some Nepali engineers working on the pro-ject.

    When we arrived at the construction site the foundati-on works of many houses had already begun. So our tasks included surveying, measuring the foundations location, digging holes for the foundation, bending bars, wiring vertical rebars, building the wooden frame-work, assisting in masonry and mixing concrete. At the same time the brick production for the walls had alrea-dy started therefore we also assisted in brick making.

    As the given amount of information concerning the project and our tasks at the construction site differed according to the students origin not all of the students were aware that most of the work would be of ma-nual nature. Some students didnt even know that they would live in a camp and would work outside so they were badly prepared. As a result, some of the students left before the internship officially ended.

    Opening ceremony of the IAESTE Project

    Construction site in the morning

    Preparing and bending steel bars

    Concrete is poored and spread inside the wooden framework

    Other students became more and more depressed as the internship went on because the work at the con-struction site didnt meet their expectations. As the internship took place during monsoon season, often work on construction site had to be stopped because of heavy rain. After the first week the soil at construc-tion site consisted of knee deep mud. The roads were no exception so the tractors bringing new materials had to be pushed by one of three excavators, which during that time couldnt do other tasks. Sometimes the excavators left for the whole day to clear landsli-des. As a result, they couldnt provide the needed ma-terials and work couldnt continue.

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  • Another issue were the bricks. Due to a wrong mixture of the ingredients and/or bad storing conditions many of the produced bricks were to weak and couldnt be used for the walls. To make space for the new bricks the old ones had to be moved. As it was unclear for what purpose they could be used moving bad bricks was a very depressing task.

    As most of the students were either civil engineers or architects it was proposed to develop small enginee-ring projects to improve the situation at the site. Small groups were formed, where projects were established to improve the roads, to implement a drainage system, to draw a progress map etc. Unfortunately, the pro-jects werent implemented. Maybe the project was too advanced to implement new ideas or the ideas were not realizable. Whatever the reasons were, the projects didnt exceed the draft stage.

    Although there were some problems I believe that the internship was a great success. As an urban planner I learned a lot about the work on a construction site. Furthermore, for me, it was a unique occasion to get

    Tractor stuck in the mud

    Testing and storage of bad quality bricks

    Student projects are being discussed

    Nepalese child greeting

    to know Nepal and its culture in a way it would not be possible when traveling as a tourist. The cultural exchange was very important for the Nepali people as well I think. Especially when considering that traveling to other countries is difficult for them. Too meet the other students from all these different countries in an environment where life is not always easy was a very unique possibility for me as well. And although, the construction process wasnt as efficient as in Europe the Nepali always managed to find a solution. I think their ability to react to fast changing conditions is so-mething we can learn from. Despite monsoon season they now start to build the walls of the houses with strong bricks. Im looking forward to visit the village again when its finished.

    Text: Vincent HischierPictures: Mareckus

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