Himalayan Hands Phortse School Project - Report of work done
The children started in the new school as planned - one day after we arrived in the village. This gave us a limited amount of time to finish off the interior but we managed to do it. Within a day or so all the children and the teachers had settled in and seemed to be very happy with the new facilities. Most of the teachersí stuff has been moved up to the headmasters office but two cabinets remain in the old school.
All painting and varnishing in the new school is complete although we struggled to find the correct paint in some cases. The pink classroom could not be given a second coat of emulsion because we could not find pink emulsion anywhere. For this reason the partition in that room is white rather than pink. We varnished the shelves for the board rubbers and chalks rather than painting them. We also decided to paint the benches for the verandah brown rather than varnish them because the wood was of poor quality and would not have looked good if varnished. Four benches were put on the verandah.
The carpet sweeper works well and the teachers seem impressed with it. We saw them using it on several occasions.
We did not have time to double-glaze all the windows, but decided to do the most vulnerable ones at the front. The result is very satisfactory, and the villagers in particular seem impressed with Perspex. The smallest offcuts were eagerly snapped up!
I have glazed the window in the green classroom and modified the headmasterís window so that it shuts properly. However, none of the windows had been puttied and so we didn't't do any repainting. Some putty does exist (in the gompa) but we didn'tít attempt to use it because I know how difficult puttying can be.
The villagers have made a nice donation box and whilst we were on site they made a special shelf for it so that it can sit on the verandah during school time. They also have a donation book, to which we added some explanatory words in English, French and German.
A curtain was obtained from Dorje Lama Sherpa and put up as specified.
The only job not completed on the new school was to plaster the end walls. Initially the weather was too cold for this, and later on when it warmed up we were too busy with the old school. However, we noticed several of the ladies of the village excavating soil behind the new school and so I am hopeful that they may get around to finishing the plaster.
Old School building (exterior)
With Panuruís assistance we plastered over the worst of the holes in the external rendering. We also scraped off the worst of the flaking white paint but in places it is really well stuck on so some sizable patches had to be left in place.
The roof was inspected and found to be sound - no patching was necessary. There was no rain whilst we were in Phortse so we were not able to test how waterproof the roof is. Initially, our attempts to fit the skylights were thwarted by the claw hammers - they kept breaking! However, we were very pleased to see that the villagers, realising our difficulties, hired a proper carpenter to do the work. He fitted all three skylights over the play room, replacing one existing skylight which was cracked and removing two tin sheets to fit the other pair. I would estimate the increase in light levels as at least 100%, and the room is now very well lit in daylight - a huge improvement.
All three windows on the building have been painted (red) and have new chicken wire fitted. This is a big improvement visually. Because of a complete lack of wooden battens (see later) we could not make proper frames for the chicken wire, but instead used thin hardwood strips from the gompa.
Play room and staff room
We successfully stripped out the partitions without damaging them. They were then dismantled in order to provide materials to line the telecommunications office. As mentioned above, the 2x1" battens were not available - in fact they arrived on the day we left. This was a serious handicap which prevented us from lining the staff room or extending the staff room partition. Instead all resources were concentrated on the telecommunications office.
In removing the partitions we further damaged the already weakened plaster and had to repair it. This gave us the opportunity to fill in all the holes at floor level and the damage around the window sills. The room was then painted ivory and the table tennis table successfully installed.
We put approximately 7 refurbished benches in the playroom. The remainder of benches and desks were used as workbenches and could not be painted. Some are not really suitable for repair and ought to be broken up. These have all been stored.
We fitted a proper handle to the external door and painted the door and frame red.
The basketball rings are on site and we explained to the villagers how they should look when installed. The villagers seemed to want to do this themselves and perhaps it will be completed over the winter.
We wanted to concentrate on the telecommunications office, and we have succeeded in creating something which will be useful.
Three walls have been dry lined - these are the back and side walls. The fourth wall was left because we did not have any suitable battens.
In the centre of the room we have built a substantial counter with a hinged flap. The location of the counter was decided in consultation with Panuru. From the customer side the counter looks very nice and all the surfaces are smooth. From behind the crudity of the counterís construction is more obvious, including the strengthening planks I had to put in to stop the floor flexing.
All of the above has been painted ivory. Another coat would probably be a good idea.
When we arrived, one or two of the window panes were smashed and so we decided to remove the glass entirely and use perspex. The result is very good visually and much more secure. We could not get any steel bars in Namche and so decided to take the following approach:
- Windows nailed closed with 4" nails (they were jammed shut anyway and we couldn'tít imagine why they would ever need to be opened).
- Perspex panes (unbreakable)
- Chicken wire on exterior.
Hopefully this will be good enough.
We obtained a suitable lock from Dorje Lama Sherpa and a medium-sized padlock. The door needed to be substantially rebuilt to accept the lock, as it was very weak in the critical position. The room is now very secure.
We had quite a few problems with the tools.
Both claw hammers got broken and repaired several times. They are now OK but it is not recommended to use them to get nails out. Good-quality hammers (perhaps with steel handles) are a priority for future work.
Out of the two hand drills on site, one had a broken chuck and the other an unreliable drive mechanism. We swapped over the chucks to create one good drill. The other one is now useless.
We brought up three chisels so there are now 4 in the village, in sizes ranging up to 1". However, we found no means of sharpening them so perhaps a carborundum stone would be worth taking next time.
The plane worked well and is in good condition, as are the saws. However, the tenon saw is noticeably less sharp than the large saw.
All the tools are now stored at Panuruís.
Because of the battens not arriving until our last day, there is now more material on site than when we arrived! This is a rough inventory:
- about 15 6"x1"x7í planks
- a similar number of 4"x3"x4í beams
- many very hard 2"x1/2" strips. These are too hard and too off-straight to be of much practical use.
(in store-room on first floor)
- lots of corrugated roofing sheets
- several tins of blackboard paint and varnish
- 2 tins of blue paint
- Plastic pipes
In telecommunications office
Because it is secure and otherwise not in use, the telecoms office has become the school store. Its contents are approximately as follows:
- A few sheets of plywood
- Various offcuts of wood, many sizes
- 3 portersí loads of battens
- Unrepaired desks and benches
In old staff room
- Many cans of paint, most of which are empty or only part-full.
- Brushes, not in good condition because they were not very clean when we arrived and we had only paraffin to clean them in.
- Nails, approximately 2kg x 1", 2kg x 2", 1kg x 3". Also 1 kg roofing nails, plus quantities of tacks and staples. There were no reasonable nails on site when we arrived and so we sent a porter to Namche to buy the above. The 3" nails are made of a poor material and invariably bend when they are hammered in. Apparently this is a common problem. For this reason I would recommend introducing screws to the village if possible.