Katoomba tradesman Michael Roffey got quite a surprise when he volunteered to rebuild an earthquake-affected school in Nepal this year, with conditions a lot harder than he expected.
“It was tough, the two weeks there felt like a lot longer,” the Hire a Hubby Katoomba franchisee told the Gazette of the experience in the remote village of Maidi, 160km west of Kathmandu.
““It was 34 degrees every day and very hot and humid.”
“The materials were there. There was this big pile of steel for the roof trusses and we didn’t know about that, we thought it was being built out of wood. I was the only one who could weld. They didn’t have a welder [machine] and the electricity power was only for one hour a day, so we hired a generator – a whole day trip to Kathmandu to get it – which was some kind of crank start thing from the 50’s that I never want to see again in my life,” he said.
“It went on and on. And that was just for the roof trusses, there were issues with the bricklaying, the type of sand. You can’t just duck down to the hardware store to get things.”
The team of eight (seven were tradesmen from the Central West with a connection to Rotary) then had a whole range of other basic issues to cope with during the October humanitarian mission, like having to make their own ladders and using old doors for scaffolding. They carried dirt using old fertiliser bags, just as the locals had been doing.
But Mr Roffey, 56, found the Nepalese inspirational.
“It was a good experience, the people were fantastic.
“And the volunteers were treated like celebrities.
“We walked a couple of kilometres to the job site every day and local kids would sing and hold your hand on the journey there.”
Mr Roffey is now hopeful that the children will be able to go back to some of the classrooms which were previously just rubble. The school’s 200 pupils are currently crammed into other parts of the building.
Mr Roffey paid his own way and gave up two weeks of paid work for the humanitarian mission.
“We’ve got the walls up and roof trusses and the locals we trained have now got the roof up and interior walls in.
“The school in Nepal will be [fully] open in time… but they are hoping for next year.”
Daybreak Rotary club has been providing cash and other immediate help to the disaster hit region of Maidi and has also been working with the villagers to help train nurses and teachers over the past four years.
The expedition's team leader, ex-Orange Rotarian John Spanjer, hopes to send another group in March.
Interested tradespeople can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0412 396 202.