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New hope for Nepal

24 February 2017

After the 2015 earthquake in Kathmandu, communities were left severely damaged and in desperate need of rebuild. 2016 Reece Grant recipient Andrew Whalan’s funds were dedicated to supporting the Thangpal Dap community, found in the worst hit district. Working alongside international charity, Healthabitat, the project involved construction of toilets and hand washing facilities. The sanitation project will benefit students and community members alike.

Construction and planning for the project commenced in February 2016 alongside architectural students from the University of Newcastle, Australia. The Sanitation Design Studio installed key elements for the hand washing and waste disposal unit including the double brick construction, steel framed roof structure, stone paths and the installation of septic tanks and trenches in safe, sheltered areas away from school play zones.

Andrew was due to arrive on site in November last year, but the late arrival of his newborn daughter meant he was unable to travel. Fortunately, friend and fellow plumber Gerard Allen was able to take the unexpected and welcomed journey.

Just arriving in Thangpal Dhap was a challenge, according to Gerard, with a long journey up the mountain from Kathmandu to get into the village.

“It took five hours to travel just 50 kms from Kathmandu. There were non-stop bumps so we could only travel a maximum 10 kms an hour.”

The trek up the mountainside travelled through some of the hardest hit areas of the region, with devastation from the earthquake visible all around.

“As we travelled through we saw a lot of the earthquake damage, it was pretty horrific,” said Gerard. “In the village we are in, over 90 per cent of houses have been destroyed, and they’ve only just started rebuilding.”

Gerard worked alongside members of the community, teaching them how to create the intricate plumbing systems required, and learning from them how to do so with the limited tools and hardware at hand.

“It was pretty cool to teach the Nepalese guys certain skills,” he said. “They do so much with so little.”

The toilet block, now complete with running water, is rendered with surroundings paved to prevent flooding. The outside of the building is covered with clear sheeting for natural light, while mesh screens prevent insects from coming in as well as providing maximum ventilation. Structural banding ensures that the building will be safe from any future earthquakes.

Gerard was pleased to have been given the opportunity to work with the community and give back in such a meaningful way. Andrew hopes to return to Thangpal Dhap to check up on the project and continue his volunteering soon.

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Read more about Gerard’s time in Nepal and see updates on the other Reece Grant recipients at


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