Twenty Years of buildOn:Interview with Ram Tharu, Our Most Senior Construction Manager

This September, buildOn will be celebrating 20 years of breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education. To prepare for this milestone, we’ll be posting tributes to the heroes who have defined the success of our programs over the last two decades. Look out for more “20 years of buildOn” features!

Ram Krishna Tharu, a Construction Supervisor from Nepal, is a rare link between buildOn’s auspicious beginnings and its continuing achievements. Tharu was present at the ground-breaking and subsequent development of buildOn’s very first school, and has just recently participated in the building of our 400th. We caught up with Tharu to discuss his background, his passion, and any memories he has from buildOn’s two-decade tenure in Nepal.

[pullquote]I’ve helped with about 42 buildOn schools.[/pullquote]

How did you first get involved with buildOn?

The first buildOn school in Nepal was built in 1994, in Haupur village. And I have a relative from Haupur who informed me that buildOn was looking to hire people to help build schools. So I came to Haupur village and talked with the staff, and buildOn selected me as a head mason.

What were you doing before that?

I was working as a contractor of construction near my home town.

How many schools have you helped build?

I’ve helped with about 42 buildOn schools.

What’s the usual construction process like for building a school?

First, we make a school building map with the design. After that we have to get the covenant and commitment from the community. [Note: Covenants are contracts signed by the villages that commits them to providing labor for the build, abolishing any child labor in the community, and ensuring gender equality in the subsequent education system.]

Then we collect construction materials, break ground, and start working.

What kind of relationship do you have with the students and coordinators from buildOn?

A harmonious relationship!

What has it meant to the Nepalese villagers to have these schools built?

The communities are very thankful to get a new, safe, and strong school building. The kids need not escape from school during heavy rain and wind anymore.

[pullquote]The communities recognize that every kind of project can be done if they do it in a group. Unity is the best policy.[/pullquote]

What changes have you observed in the past few decades in terms of bringing volunteers to construct schools in Nepal?

The communities recognize that every kind of project can be done if they do it in a group. Unity is the best policy.

What was it like having American youth work with you to construct the 400th school? What do you think the impact was on the community?

I’m very happy American youth travel so far to work with Nepalese people and contribute to their communities. This is an inspiration. The community gained more power from American youth.

How is building a school more meaningful than a basic construction job?

The school belongs to the whole community, not only single family. And schools help to produce teachers, doctors, and engineers.