Nepal: "RedR's training was a turning point in my professional development."

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After the earthquakes of spring 2015, Purna Bahadur Thami was selected by his community as a social mobiliser.

As such, he was responsible for facilitating the reconstruction and recovery process by disseminating key ‘Build Back Safer’ messages. In December, Purna attended RedR’s ‘Build Back Safer Shelter Awareness Training of Trainers’. We caught up with him in April 2016, a year after the first earthquake, to find out how he was using what he’d learned.

Before attending RedR’s training, Purna had no practical experience of shelter construction. However, his objectives were very clear: "I’m enthusiastic about helping and gaining knowledge to share," he said. "I want to become a good trainer so the community can build back safer."

Four months later, Purna is working with the CWIN , delivering ‘Build Back Safer’ messages to earthquake-affected communities in Dolakha District as part of an awareness-raising programme implemented in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

"So far, we have implemented the programme in two Village Development Committees (VDCs), and the progress made has been tremendous," he says.

"We began in one of the most devastated villages of Dolakha: Laduk, in the northern part of the district. It is home to about 1200 earthquake-affected households. Each awareness session can accommodate only 40 or 50 people. As a result, it took quite some time to complete the programme: about six or seven weeks. Not even a single person from the village wanted to miss the training.

Recently, we’ve been busy implementing the programme in another village, Bigu, which is even more remote. It is an iconic place in Dolakha District: it is famous for its nunnery, which is one of the biggest in Nepal. During our stay in Bigu, we shared our time and knowledge with the nuns and other people residing in the monastery. All the structures had been damaged by the earthquake. We assisted them in demolishing and clearing some of the damaged structures as well. 

Along with the awareness sessions, we [CWIN and IOM] distribute tool kits consisting of 15 construction items to the people who attend the sessions, so they can put what they learn into practice."

Purna and his team are now back in the office, making plans to implement the programme in another village, Kalinchowk. 

"We aim to make all attendees into trainers."

"Our efforts to make everyone in Laduk and Bigu aware of how to build earthquake-resistant houses using local materials have been very successful. In both VDCs, the people needed no convincing to attend the session, for they understood what it was about. People’s enthusiasm and keen interest in learning along with their warm, respectful and hospitable attitude towards the trainers was very motivating for us, and encouraged us to organise more training sessions for the people in both villages.

We aim to make all attendees into trainers. Our goal is for everyone to have good technical skills and knowledge of making earthquake-resilient houses." 

"Every day is a challenge."

"What new thing will I learn today? What will be the next challenge that I face? What new questions will arise from the crowd that will challenge my knowledge and intellectuality? Excitement to meet new people and curiosity keeps me going. Village people have a conventional way of building houses. When we teach them different techniques, they always ask us for further explanations and want to know why this technique is better than the previous one. 

Speaking in front of a crowd of new faces has been challenging for me. As the time passes, however, I have honed my skills and my ability to deliver my message confidently. Every day is a challenge. It has helped me to grow personally as well as professionally. It has enhanced my public speaking skills and boosted my confidence. It was one of the best training courses I have ever done, and a turning point for my professional development."

Stories like Purna’s illustrate how RedR’s training can not only build skills, but boost confidence - contributing to the creation of a generation of skilled, committed humanitarian professionals who will be able to help their communities prepare for and respond to disaster in the months and years to come.