Bolgaun Stories: Earthbag Baby - House #1

When 23 year old Karchu Bomgyang was helping her husband, Sugyalbo, fill the foundation of their new Earthbag house, she suddenly let out a small scream and dropped everything she was doing.

Karchu had gone into labor and suddenly the need for a stable, permanent home was more urgent than ever before.

Joining her older sister, Sabina (age 4), baby Sompalmu had come into a world that had been neither easy nor kind to their parents. Two years ago, Karchu and Sugyalbo had left their family and village of Bolgaun to look for work in India. Abandoning everything they knew in Nepal for the sake of earning a living. Sugyalbo worked day to day as a farmer and laborer while his wife stayed home alone to take care of their first child. Each morning around dawn, Sugyalbo joined a whole truckload of other workers to be taken to whatever project needed employees on that day and would first come home late in the evening, with a small sum of money to help provide for his family. Days, weeks, months, and eventually years passed like this until abruptly on April 25th, 2015, everything came to a sudden halt.

On a sunny Saturday in India, Sugyalbo and Karchu felt a slight shaking from below. What felt like a minor tremble to them, however, had entirely leveled their village in Nepal, destroying their family’s home and ending the lives of nearly half their neighbors, friends, and family. Upon hearing of the magnitude of destruction, this sweet family was on the road again- headed back to Bolgaun to be with those dear to them.

Arriving home after days of walking, they recognized little of the village they once knew. The road to Bolgaun had been wiped away by landslides and the entire village had fallen to the ground, killing and injuring those who had been in the way. Karchu and Sugyalbo joined the community in the long wait for aid, food, and medical help, but nothing ever came until nearly 18 months later when Australian medical workers spied the leveled village from across the valley.

Helen Simpson began a long trek across the valley and made a connection with the village of Bolgaun that finally initiated the process of rebuilding this shattered community. Now, Karchu and Sugyalbo are the first of many families in Bolgaun to rebuild their home using Earthbag method and the first to have a permanent, sustainable, and safe home for their beautiful new family.

This project is sponosored by Nimbin Health and Welfare association.

Kaule House #3 for Durga family is almost finished

Durga is 30 years old. At this age, many of us are just beginning what we consider our “adult lives” but Durga has already lived a lifetime. At 30, Durga is married, has fathered three beautiful daughters, has worked as a security guard in Malaysia for six years, created a home with his family, lost this home when the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake reduced it to dust, and has lived in a tin shack for over a year. Durga knows how to farm, how to do carpentry work, how to support his family, and now, he has learned how to build an Earthbag house.

Durga has been sleeping in a tin shack for the past 18 months with his wife and three daughters. The tin was a donation from an international relief organization and has been conveniently assembled in the front yard of a small crooked brick house, where his sister, his parents, and his grandparents all sleep. For the past week, Durga and his wife and kids have also been sleeping in this brick house, where they cook hot meals of rice and lentils for the six volunteers who have been kindly offered the tin shack during the building process.

But they won’t be homeless for long because in just a matter of days, Durga and the volunteers have built an Earthbag house with the help of neighbors from the community. The first one to show up in the morning and the last one to leave, Durga has taken charge of the build- advising his neighbors on how to sift the earth, fill the bags, and tamp them properly. He’s more than ready to move his family into their new home and his eagerness has led to a deep interest in Earthbag building techniques and a willingness to teach these methods to his community. Two courses away from finishing the walls, Durga turns to the volunteer by his side during their tea break and tells him he’s confident he can replicate this design.

India Initiative: Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

Kateryna Zemskova and Dr. Owen Geiger at the model Earthbag building, Anna University Campus, Madurai

Kateryna Zemskova and Dr. Owen Geiger at the model Earthbag building, Anna University Campus, Madurai

We are proud to announce our new India Initiative, designed to bring widespread sustainable Earthbag building to India for the first time.

Partnered with government-sponsored Anna University, our teaching and building program are also expected to play a critical part in Prime Minister Modi's Clean India initiative.

Anna University is one of India's largest and most prestigious universities, with five regional campuses and 600 affiliated colleges. Good Earth Nepal is now building a model Earthbag conference center on Anna's flagship Madurai campus, and we expect to build more Earthbag structures on Anna campuses in the coming year.

Anna engineering and architecture students are building the conference center themselves, with training and supervision provided by Good Earth Nepal. Soon these young building professionals will be constructing their own Earthbag structures, all over India.

Kateryna Zemskova and Dr. Owen Geiger were also keynote speakers at India's first-ever Earthbag Conference, "Promoting Entrepreneurship In Innovative Construction Techniques". The two-day summit in Madurai was a huge success, with over 350 scholars, students, researchers and government officials in attendance.

Thanks to Dean Swarnalatha and our Good Earth Nepal staff in Madurai, India for making all this happen, and we look forward to further work with Anna University and the Indian government.