At a time when many homeowners across the country are yet to undertake reconstruction of houses ravaged by the 2015 earthquake, Awas Nirmaan Saathis are emerging as much-needed catalysts on the path to resilient rebuilding in Gorkha
Awas Nirmaan Saathis, or trained local masons, deployed under UNDP’s Nepal Housing Reconstruction Project in Gorkha—funded by the Government of India—are today playing the combined roles of communicators and motivators when it comes to reconstruction. They are assigned with assisting those locals who are struggling with issues such as accessing Government grants and purchasing necessary materials, and who are often at the mercy of shrewd contractors.
Nar Bahadur, 46, is one such Awas Nirmaan Saathi in Gorkha. “Prior to becoming an ANS, I had worked as a mason for several housing projects, but it’s only now, after having received intensive training on safer reconstruction, that I’ve come to understand the process in more rigorous detail.” ANS workers are tasked with going door to door, providing necessary assistance to engineers and contractors, and monitoring the progress of work at all levels in their assigned areas.
Nar Bahadur says he’s far more content with the work he’s doing now, especially after witnessing the deaths and damage that unsafe building practices have led to during the 2015 disaster. “I’m happy to be using my newfound awareness and skills to promote safer reconstruction, and helping people to apply these resilient techniques in rebuilding homes for their families,” he says.
As the name suggests, Awas Nirmaan Saathis have been conceived as “friends” for local homeowners, and most ANS workers touch upon the value of this proximity to the community in their testimonials.
Bishnu Pandey, an ANS presently working in Ward 7 of Gorkha Municipality, had 16 years of experience working as a mason prior to becoming an ANS. “Being from the same village as the people I’m trying to help makes it a lot easier to motivate them since they already know and trust me,” he says. “Part of my job is also to convince them to work with contractors, whose activities I monitor from time to ensure they are adhering to all the safety guidelines.”
This is reiterated by Nanda Bahadur of the Sahid Lakhan rural municipality, who has been mobilizing and training locals in incorporating new resilient technologies into existing building practices. “These are my people, and I feel a great sense of responsibility towards them,” he says simply.
ANS Sangeeta Kattel, meanwhile, adds that the rewards of working for one’s own community far surpass the challenges. “Being able to help people come back from such a devastating event and rebuild their lives is incredibly satisfying,” Sangeeta says. “There’s nothing like it.”