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Nepal Earthquake Response Update

Preserving Cultural Heritage In Nepal

| By AHV

All Hands Volunteers have been extending their knowledge of shelter construction to provide cover for some of the most important artistic features of architecture and culture in the Kathmandu Valley.

When the earthquakes of April and May 2015 destroyed buildings in Nepal, they put at risk the preservation of Kathmandu heritage. Carved doors, beams and decorative features have been hugely significant to the living tradition of this community, however maintaining its continued presence would have been a serious challenge, given the destruction of the homes. Even if items of heritage and architectural significance had survived the earthquakes, it could not be guaranteed that they could survive exposure to the elements, or be protected in the case of total demolition.

Itumbahal, an old town of Kathmandu, is not only the home to many people, but also the site of festivals, events and shared traditions. The collapse of the buildings in this area was a shock to many. The task of rescuing artifacts and finding a temporary home for them was brought to All Hands by a coalition of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City office, Itumbahal Conservation Society and Star Club. All Hands worked with Youth and Children for Heritage volunteers, sharing with them structural techniques. The main worry was the loss of this important aspect of local heritage, and the impact that this would have on cultural identity.

Homeowners in the area were asked to consider an alternative to this unfortunate end, in which volunteers would build a shelter for these items could be stored. By doing this, they could proceed with the demolition and clearing which was important for creating a safe structural environment, while ensuring that the carving of such important cultural, community and personal value could be preserved.

After a week of building a structure that could be a safe haven for these at risk carvings, the community came out in force to celebrate the volunteers. Local and international volunteers working together meant that skills could be shared, capacity built and home owners reassured that the things that made their house a home could be reused in homes that they planned to rebuild in the future.

Written by Bernardine Carroll