This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.
The world of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is vast and growing if you live in Nepal. Some experts estimate there is a whopping 50,000 registered NGOs (PDF) in the country, a steep increase since an NGO registration change in 1992. With that change, groups of individuals joined together in droves to create organizations to fight the languishing poverty in Nepal, a country that has been classified by the United Nations as one of the world’s least developed countries since 1971. Experts also attribute the increase of Nepalese NGOs to the country’s small private enterprise sector. Most Nepalis believe the only way they can make money is through civil society where tens of millions of dollars flow through Nepal’s civil sector every year.
While many organizations follow the safe blueprint of how NGOs should operate, there are some that are devising innovative ways in which to help communities at their most basic level, especially after the earthquakes that rocked the landlocked country caused nearly 9,000 fatalities nationwide last year. The earthquakes shocked the country and exposed immense disaster relief vulnerabilities of the government as well as the throngs of NGOs that were not prepared to handle a major natural disaster.
One such organization that is turning the NGO rubric on its head is CREASION (Center for Research and Sustainable Development Nepal), a youth-led organization that was founded on the first day of the April 25th earthquake in 2015. Immediately after the earthquake volunteers for CREASION provided rehabilitation support for communities.
“Nepal looked like someone bombed us,” said Aanand Mishra, Founder and CEO of CREASION. “We were all shocked. Everything was gone. We started the rescue after one hour.”
Now that the earthquake is more than a year on, CREASION has shifted its focus to create sustainable model communities where people are deeply invested in their own community as opposed to simply being beneficiaries of aid. These model communities will have earthquake-proof homes, a school with bathrooms for boys and girls, a community bathhouse for women and girls, solar panels for electricity, garden plots in front of the homes and beautification efforts, a paved road through the center of the village, micro-enterprise programs, and safe drinking water.
CREASION is now working in Bhurunchuli, a village an hour and a half outside of Kathmandu, with a population of roughly 400 people. The village was leveled during the quake and was chosen as a community that was responsive to the idea of rebuilding through change. In fact, Mishra stresses that CREASION involved the community from the very beginning. Now, 23 out of 55 total earthquake-resistant homes have been built in Bhurunchuli by the homeowners themselves. Three-hundred thousand dollars was donated by Rotary International District 3292 Nepal-Bhutan for housing, however a total of $600,000 is needed to fully fund CREASION’s first model community. Mishra is hopeful all of the homes will be completed by the end of 2016, but monsoon season often causes unforeseen construction setbacks. 2018 is the year in which Mishra and his team plan to turn over the community to the villagers who built it.
Aside from the earthquake-proof homes, CREASION is focused heavily on building a covered community bathhouse for women and girls called a padhero that will allow them to bathe and use the bathroom in private. It will also serve as a place to wash clothes and will become a de facto spot for women to talk privately. CREASION broke ground today for the bathhouse with a Buddhist foundation laying blessing ceremony. Coca-Cola will fund the bathhouse as well as boys’ and girls’ bathrooms at the community’s school. These bathrooms are especially important for young girls who statistically drop out of school once they begin menstruating. In fact, only 30 percent of girls reach 10th grade in Nepal because they begin menstruation. Mishra discussed that their innovative idea of a community padhero has been praised by the United Nations Developement Program and they have agreed in principle to replicate padheros across all of Nepal, however, there is no contract at the moment.
Until the community’s padhero construction gets underway later this month, home construction remains one of the village’s highest priorities. Each single story home is free of charge to every family, however, the caveat is they must build it. One house’s cement foundation to tin roof can be built in 15 days. All construction is based on government standards, a fact Mishra is proud of.
Each home has between three and four rooms based on the need of a family and is also determined based on the amount of land each family owns. Women also create the blocks for the homes which take roughly 21 days to completely dry. CREASION wanted women to make the blocks to empower them to be a part of the community building process as well as men. Thus far CREASION has accomplished a lot in a fairly short amount of time even though there is still $250,000 that needs to be raised and technology like solar panels that need to be donated.
“We want to redefine nonprofits in Nepal,” Mishra added. “A lot can be done with a small amount of money.”
Full Disclosure: Coca-Cola has paid all travel, accommodations, and expenses on my trip to Nepal.