The process of making bricks is fairly simple, but involves many hands and lots of hard work. Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEBs) are comprised of soil, sand, just a tiny amount of cement to act as a binding agent, and a bit of water to help it all set correctly. The ratios of soil, sand, cement, and water all need to be properly measured and mixed thoroughly.
Once the ingredients have been mixed into what basically looks like one big pile of dirt, large scoops are taken from the pile and delivered into the brick press. The press is locked down, and the pulling begins. Every little particle of "dirt" gets compressed by one or two people manually pulling down on a lever until the press releases and the brick is formed.
From there it has several weeks of curing to go through, and eventually it will get used for building. In the case I'm familiar with, these bricks will be used to rebuild one of the two schools in Takure, a village in Nepal in which I lived for three months while working with Conscious Impact.

During my time there, I had the opportunity to visit another school rebuild project in a different village. There, a group of volunteers were building using earth bags. The design was excellent, the work rewarding, and the village beautiful. I felt inspired by the work they were doing and even a little jealous because they lived and worked at the school site--which meant that they had very frequent interaction with the villagers--and their building method seemed so fast.

Pressing CSEBs and then building with them is decidedly not fast. Mixing the batches and pulling the individual bricks is exhausting. The bricks take a long time to cure before they can be used. Building with the bricks is a slow and arduous process all on its own. Compared to the earth bags, our project suddenly seemed really inefficient. But this initial perception eventually led to my understanding of the difference between the purposes of our project and others like the one I visited.

The process of building with CSEBs may not be very fast, but neither is the process of recovering after a disaster. There are hundreds of aid and non-profit organizations currently working in Nepal, and for many, it's effective to go in to a village to rebuild a structure and leave once it's done and have that be enough. But in a village like Takure, where all but one out of 261 homes were destroyed, it's clear that something more is needed.

We are there not only to rebuild the schools they lost, but to empower and support the community throughout the process of recovering and rebuilding. Because of that, each brick is a symbol of resilience and a willingness to grow. They each represent a commitment to supporting friends--community--as they continue to move forward.

So everyday (except Saturday, of course) at the Takure Training and Production Center, bricks get made. Conscious Impact volunteers work with a team of Nepali locals to mix batches of soil, sand, and cement and press them into bricks. A unique mishmash of international pop music plays as everyone mixes, shovels, and pulls; sweats, dances, and sings; shares laughter, exhaustion, and energy; and crafts CSEBs one by one.

Continue reading "Crafting Bricks; Crafting Community" on Marissa's blog....

Marissa spent a few months volunteering with us her in Takure. She continues working with us remotely and will hopefully be returning to Takure this year.