Saturday, March 28, 2009

Home Again

Dear DU Brothers:

I just got back to my home in Boulder Colorado after 5 months in Nepal.  I wanted to give you an update on my “tour of duty” in Nepal with Habitat for Humanity, and thank you for your interest and donations.

When Fratkins and Dave Watkinson suggested the DU-Habitat for Humanity Challenge to raise $2100 from Class of ’68, I was surprised and honored.  We figured that this contribution would help fund seven houses in Nepal.  In fact, with the help of some brothers in some other classes we raised $2825 which will support the construction of nine simple, decent houses for poor families in Nepal.  This is absolutely outstanding!  So thank you!   Thanks to all the brothers who participated in this successful effort:   Alex Watson, Bill Wolcott, Bob Coleman, Charles Hupfer, Dave Watkinson, Dick Rose '69, Dwight Allen, Fred Atkins '67, Howard Warren, Jake Elig, James Clark, John Nemeth, Joseph Ely, Smith Freeman, Robin Dial ’67, David Benbow ’67, Dan Howe ’67, Bill Snypes ’70, and anonymous!

Most of my time in Nepal was spent in the Habitat office in Kathmandu doing resource development.  But last week they let me participate in a Habitat Global Village Team house build in Pokhara Neapal.  Pokhara is a small town about 100 miles west of Kathmandu.  The Global Village Team was made up of 16 volunteers from all over the world:  USA, Canada, England, Germany, Australia, Dubai, Singapore.  The team worked for 10 days with our local Habitat home-partners and built three houses.  (You can see pictures of the team and houses on my blog:  These houses represent one type of construction that Habitat does in western Nepal using concrete block and stone. 

In southeastern Nepal, Habitat usually uses bamboo and adobe plaster.  There are also pictures of this type of house construction on the blog.

In October - December, Habitat-Nepal reports that they constructed 525 houses, renovated 35 and implemented training, safe water, and sanitation projects to serve 150 families.  (I attach a copy of Habitat-Nepal’s 2nd qtr newsletter.) The UNC DU donations will support this ongoing program in Nepal.  Habitat and I thank you for your help!

 Best regards,

 Michael Rabb (Rabbi)

 PS:  Go Heels!  (Jeanne and I have tickets to final four in Detroit and expect to be watching Tarheels!)


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Global Village Builds Houses in Nepal!

Last week travelled to Pokhara to tag on to a Habitat Global Village Team with members from all over the world:  USA, UK, Canada, Dubai, Germany, Singapore.  We helped built three houses with our home-partners and local artisans.   Built two of concrete block and one of stone.  Had to bust a lot of boulders and move a lot rock for the stone house!  Visited a local school.  

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Important Security Announcement for American Citizens in Nepal

From the American Embassy in Nepal, 13 MAR 09:  
There is an ongoing strike in the Terai region of Nepal carried out by
various indigenous groups .  This strike, or bandh, has affected all
vehicular movement in all of the districts of the Terai (the area
bordering India), including the popular tourist district of Chitwan.
The threat of violence as this strike continues is a real concern, and
in one instance, clashes between Tharus and the Nepal police forces left
3 people dead and numerous persons injured.  As a precaution, the U.S.
Embassy is currently not allowing U.S. mission personnel to travel to
the Terai region.  As negotiations are ongoing between the Government of
Nepal and demonstrating groups to bring a resolution to this conflict,
it is unclear how long the strike may continue.  American citizens are
urged to defer non-essential travel to this region of Nepal while the
strike is in effect.  If travel is necessary, Americans are advised to
exercise caution, to expect vehicular transportation to be disrupted,
and to avoid demonstrations should they come upon them.

- - - - - - - 

In the western lowlands of the country, the Tharu ethnic community has long been dispossessed of its land and the Tharu people have been turned into serfs by wealthier migrants from the hilly regions to the north. These powerful landlords, or Zamindars ,as they are called, are more often than not members of so-called higher caste groups, mainly Brahmin and Kshetri, who also have access to political power. These Zamindars wield positions in the bureaucracy, the military and business. Moreover, they control the mass media. In short, they represent the most important section of the ruling class in Nepal.

Having appropriated the land from the Tharu community, the Zamindars subjugated the Tharus and turned them into bonded laborers (in return for food, clothing and shelter) on the very land they previously owned. This is a system of slavery known as the kamaiyasystem.

The Tharus are an aboriginal people who inhabit the western plains of Nepal. They constitute a sizeable minority of the population, a national minority (around 1.2 million), who at one time were self-sufficient farmers. Several years ago National Geographic magazine graphically portrayed these people as exotic beings with their very quaint customs and traditions. For many years the Anti-Slavery Society, based in Britain, has been trying to reach a wider audience about the Kamaiya system in Nepal. In 1997, the Times of London carried an exposure on the plight of the Tharu people under the Kamaiya system.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lath & Plaster Bamboo Style

Aruna Simittrarachchi, director of Habitat's Nepal program, visited Malaysia a couple of weeks ago to train Habitat partners in bamboo building methods.  Looks like they've got the hang of it:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Springtime in Himalyas

Cruised around Kathmandu Valley on a mountain bike Sunday.  Apparently it was national water baloon day cause lots of smiling Nepali kids pelted me along my trek.  Namaste!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Habitat International representatives, James Samuel (Bangkok), and Mario Flores (Atlanta), visited Nepal and met with our staff to discuss Habitat's Disaster Response initiatives.