Rebuilding Fund SkS-HT: Guidelines

Sathiko Sath Netherlands (SkS Netherlands) and HT Wandelreizen (HT) together launched a Fund Raising Initiative the day after the deadly earthquake of April 25th that was so devastating for Nepal.  Almost one month later, the amount raised for the SkS-HT Fund has exceeded 130,000 euros (25 May 2015).

The main reason for this Fundraising Initiative was and is to support the families of the children / students of Sathiko Sath and the families of guides, cooks and porters of HT in restoring their homes, fields and basic infrastructure.

In this document the board of SkS Netherlands and the director of HT have stated their guidelines for how the money in the SkS-HT Rebuilding Fund should be spent. A detailed plan of action will be made in a later phase on the basis of these guidelines.

  • Guideline 1

The Rebuilding Fund will not be used for emergencies like rescue and relief operations as this is far beyond the expertise and experience of SkS and HT.

In their meeting on Tuesday May 19th the board of SkS Netherlands and the director of HT decided that the aim of the Fund would be to support reconstruction and redevelopment of personal and communal material and environmental facilities needed for a dignified daily existence in the Nepalese context.  Therefore it was explicitly named the SkS-HT Rebuilding Fund.

(NOTE: Having said this, after their meeting of May 19th and after careful consideration on May 21st, the board of SkS Netherlands and the director of HT have decided to spend a limited sum of money from the Rebuilding Fund, namely € 12,000, on emergency kits for the immediate relief of the SkS/HT families. This was explicitly a one-time exception to the provision stated above and will not be repeated or added to).

  • Guideline 2

SkS and HT will determine the guidelines for (implementation of) the activities paid out of the Rebuilding Fund.

SkS Netherlands and HT have to give account to the donors that the money donated is spent in accord with the reason they stated for the fund raising. Therefore guidelines for expenditures are needed.

  • Guideline 3

Rotary Club Jawalakhel (RCJ), under the chairmanship of Mr. Basu Dev Neupane, will (be asked to) take the responsibility for organizing and monitoring the activities paid out of the Rebuilding Fund. The Nepalese SkS board can only have an advisory role as they are among the beneficiaries of the Fund.

To avoid a conflict of interest between those who decide on providing financial and material support and those who benefit from it, the board of SkS Nepal can only have an advisory role in how the money in the Rebuilding Fund will be spent. However the organisation, implementation and monitoring of the (financial and material) support have to be informed by the local situation and can therefore only be taken on in Nepal. We ask RCJ to take responsibility for the organisation and monitoring of the activities and to form a local project group for the actual implementation. They must consult the board of SkS Nepal to assess necessities and before they take decisions. These guidelines must be leading in all their decisions and should only be deviated from with good reason and after approval of the Board of SkS Netherlands and the director of HT.

  • Guideline 4

An administrative and accounting system will be put into place by SkS Netherlands and Rotary Club Jawalakhel to ensure the proper use of the money donated. The Nepalese accountant of SkS Nepal, Baker Tilly, will also act as accountant for the Rebuilding Fund.

During the meeting on Tuesday May 19th the board of SkS Netherlands and the director of HT decided that all money donated to the Rebuilding Fund will be spent for the benefit of the targeted Nepali people and communities without any overhead expenses, keeping the overhead at zero percent. It must be clear to all parties that any kind of dishonest, fraudulent, or corrupt conduct regarding the money from the Rebuilding Fund will not be tolerated and, should it come to light, will have serious consequences and may jeopardize the entire project.

  • Guideline 5

The formal role and the directives of the Central Government and District and Village Development Committees (DDC’s and VDC’s) in restoring communities and basic infrastructure will be respected.

The devastation after the earthquakes was so great that the international community and NGO’s working in Nepal immediately reacted on this natural disaster. The country was flooded with relief goods, money and expertise. However, a fair distribution of the relief effort, particularly in the villages in the hills and mountains, is a very complex challenge due to the geophysical situation and the limited resources of Nepal. Although some may have doubts about the effectiveness and credibility of the Nepalese Government, the formal role and directives of the Central Government and DDC/VDC’s in the distribution of aid and the reconstruction of communities and infrastructures should be respected in order to avoid conflicts with these official bodies.

  • Guideline 6

The focus of the rebuilding activities will be on the needs of the communities and their basic services such as schools, public toilets or community buildings. Community education on e.g. earthquake resistant building techniques can be part of the given support.

Contrary to the situation in the Netherlands, in Nepal family life is largely interwoven with community life. Basic infrastructural facilities such as a drinking water supply, public toilets and the school building are often the result of a collective effort of the entire community. Although the local bodies like VDC’s at the village level and District Development Committees at the district level are responsible for supplying basic services like education, water, electricity etcetera, the collective effort of the community members plays a vital role in ensuring the quality of life in the villages and making them good places to live. Therefore our focus should be on the community as a whole and not on its individual members.

  • Guideline 7

A proper check on what is needed, what can be done by people themselves and what will be provided, or has already been provided by others, is necessary.

In every country, and also in Nepal, there are always individuals who will try to take advantage of a situation only for their own personal benefit. And as there are so many NGO’s and foreigners who maintain a special relationship with specific people and/or communities in Nepal, overlap between their separate relief efforts is bound to exist. At the same time there is also a risk that individuals and families without such relationships are overlooked and do not receive any kind of material help.

  • Guideline 8

We aim to complete the rebuilding activities and the provision of materials and labour expertise paid by the SkS-HT Rebuilding Fund within one year after the earthquake of April 25, 2015.

Gradually the inventory of needs, the distribution of goods and the coordination of the relief effort are coming into place. The Government is proclaiming directives concerning the provision and distribution of all kind of goods. It has been proclaimed by the Government that Nepali families who need to rebuild their houses will be entitled to a low interest limited loan to rebuild their homes (Nepal Rastra Bank Directives) If it turns out that disbursement of the government loans is seriously delayed, the one year deadline will be reconsidered.

  • Guideline 9

As our aim is to implement sustainable solutions when rebuilding, cooperation will be sought with other organisations (NGO’s such as Smart Shelter) that have the necessary experience (e.g. with earthquake resistant building) and match with the guidelines of the Rebuilding Fund.

In restoring the living environment of the communities of the SkS and HT families the focus should be on long-term sustainable solutions that fit into the Nepalese context.  There are several organisations with specific knowledge on the subject of earthquake resistant construction and experience with working in Nepal, for instance a Dutch organisation called Smart Shelter Foundation (http://www.smartshelterfoundation.org). Some quotes from their website:

“Shelter Foundation is a non-profit organization, which builds in smart ways in developing countries, and transfers its knowledge of building technology to the local people. Safe building principles, for instance cyclone and earthquake resistant construction, and improving the overall construction quality are key factors in our work. We promote low-cost & low-tech materials and techniques, while respecting the local needs, customs, habits, influences and the environment. Smart Shelter Foundation does all the work voluntarily and we are very proud of our minimal overhead expenses, which are only 3%! We document our projects thoroughly and we are completely transparent to our donors.”

As neither SkS nor HT has any experience in this matter and because the solutions that are developed and implemented should be sustainable and earthquake resistant, the possibilities of cooperation with organisations such as Smart Shelter will be explored.

  • Guideline 10

Material and financial support should be provided only on the condition of local effort and contribution.

People in the villages have many skills and also many different materials to work with. Most communities are dynamic and are actively involved in improving quality of life. The rebuilding initiatives should engage local people and promote the use of local skills and materials. This will enhance self-reliance and reduce dependency on external funds. It also emphasizes the reciprocal responsibility of individuals for the communities they belong to.