The massive earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015, weakened many of the local buildings in the mountainous region of Solukhumbu. But it was the big aftershock in May that crumbled buildings to the ground in seconds.
In the village of Chaurikharka, the local school was completely destroyed along with many of the homes. The school was established by Sir Edmund Hillary and the Himalayan Trust in 1964 and it remains one of the 63 schools supported by the Himalayan Trust.
Lhakpa Gelzen Sherpa and his two children aged four and ten, were at the school in Chaurikharka when the earthquake hit. He remembers grabbing hold of his youngest child who was more interested in the swinging school bell than feeling any fear about the building collapsing around them.
Keen to help the community recover, Lhakpa now leads the “Build Back Better” rebuild project for Chaurikharka High School.
Lhakpa manages the “Building Back Better” project for Chaurikharka High School and provides leadership for community involvement in the school rebuild programme.
The school was closed for a month after the May earthquake. All the families were called to a meeting at the school following the disaster and although many families had lost everything, they all acknowledged the need to get the children back to school as soon as possible.
“By June 8 we had completed the temporary learning classes,” says Lhakpa. “With funding from the Himalayan Trust as well as raising money locally, we built temporary classrooms. We knew if we didn’t get the students back into school quickly they may never want to come back at all.
Stronger, safer schools
“After the earthquakes we realised the old building construction wasn’t good enough. Now we are very careful about the construction for many generations to come,” says Lhakpa.
Over the next three years, The Himalayan Trust will rebuild 120 classrooms, teachers’ quarters, student hostels and toilet blocks at 30 schools, including Chaurikharka High School and some of the most remote schools in the mountainous Solukhumbu district.
Creating jobs for young people
Young people from the local area will be offered the opportunity to work and learn alongside skilled tradespeople and receive training in seismic-resistant building techniques. This on-site vocational training will help address the problems of labour shortages and bring much-needed new skills and employment to the region.
“Many people leave school and go guiding, but now it’s not so easy, there’s not enough work for everyone” says Lhakpa. “The government has also now introduced a licensing system for guides, which requires a school-leaving certificate and not everyone will qualify.
“We will be bringing in experienced tradespeople from Kathmandu to work on the rebuild and this is an opportunity for our young people to learn new skills, to work alongside experienced carpenters and painters to learn a trade.”
Rebuilding for a better future
“We are very thankful for Sir Ed. First he came and set up our education system, without that we would not have had any opportunities. With the ongoing support and teacher training, we now have many capable people in our communities.
“We are very grateful for all the support from the Himalayan Trust and we are very committed to rebuilding the best way we can for our future.”