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GSBN:Greeting from Pakistan

Dear GSBN members -

  As-salam alekum (may peace be with you).  Darcey Donovan and I have one more day here in northern Pakistan for our recent effort to bring straw bale building to this earthquake devastated region.  Darcey has been here six weeks and I four weeks.

  A remarkable and unforgettable experience in countless ways.  The devastation from the 2005 earthquake is difficult to explain or comprehend.  The sight of collapsed buildings (unreinforced masonry and under-reinforced concrete alike), and people living in tents or other temporary shelter is routine.  Stories of lost family members and friends are commonplace (over 87,000 died).  But in spite of the staggering material losses and human suffering, the people here are resilient, and are taking whatever action they can to rebuild their lives.

  Many N.G.O.'s are trying to assist, and the Pakistani government has a comprehensive plan in place, although money for rebuiliding has had difficulty reaching the people.  Also the approved designs have shortcomings, not the least of which is the designs are not buildable within the money alloted to each family.

  Darcey and I began construction of a prototype straw bale residence in the Village of Hillkot, with a class of trainees.  We constructed the foundation, made almost 300 bales (there are no machine-made straw bales in Pakistan, but lots of rice and wheat straw), made site-built trusses and structural window bucks.  As we were about to stack bale walls and put up trusses, the weather changed dramatically, bringing rain to the site and snow to surrounding higher elevations in these foothills of the Himalaya.  Winter has begun here.

  We opted to stop construction and return in March.  We used this past week to conduct numerous successful meetings with N.G.O.s and government officials, in order to develop as many partner relationships as possible.  Everyone has been very receptive.  Today we meet with the all-important Pakistani Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency, as well as UNICEF who is in charge of rebuilding over 500 schools.

  Darcey and I are very optimistic that straw bale construction can be utilized here to the great benefit of the Pakistani people.  It is a perfect fit in many ways.  The potential for it to take off over then next 3 to 5 years might be without precedent.  We have clear ideas about how this can best happen.  We will try to bring new people into the effort as necessary, and at some point might put out an invitation or request to the GSBN.

  Nothing more at this point.  I simply wanted to give a quick report to everyone on the GSBN about our experience in Pakistan.  It has greatly affected both of us.

  Martin Hammer

  PS - Bill C. - Did you send Darcey her invitation to join the GSBN.  I don't believe she has received a GSBN e-mail yet.

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