STATEMENT REGARDING CONTENTS OF ABARI.ORG
Dear Friends and Well wishers of ABARI,
I am writing to you to inform you about an ill-motivated and personally targeted online smear campaign unleashed by Mr. Bhupal Adhikari from his comfortable home in London, UK. Many of you are aware that abari.org was our official website. Thanks to web.archive, the old contents of the website can be still retrieved here. In December 2016, the website was hijacked with the intent of personally defaming me and Abari’s board members. Since that time, numerous allegations have been made by him.
I was hoping not to have to address the bogus allegations as they are patently false and even criminally defamatory. Anyone who knows our work would see that right away, but given the fact that his actions are causing harm to our reputation, I respond to put a stop to it. I also include here a full report issued by Avaaz, whose independent evaluators spent weeks in the field and found no basis for his claims. I have included the photographic and financial evidence to refute each and every claim that was made on the hijacked Abari.org.
Bhupal Adhikari, who uses the pseudo name of ‘Bhups Dolpo’ and works as a banking official in London, was briefly involved with ABARI in the early days of the earthquake. As me and my team were in Gorkha working in very dangerous conditions, with hundreds of aftershocks still occurring, we didn’t have reliable internet access. As he is based in London, I asked him to handle all of our communications. He made the initial contact with our first donor, AVAAZ, and also started a crowdfunding page on Indiegogo .
Once the AVAAZ funds was approved, Bhupal emailed me on Sunday, July 12, 2015 stating that he should manage one-thirds of the money. He had earlier emailed on Sunday, December 13, 2015 that I should channelise the money to family members' accounts. When we collectively refused this, his assaults were aimed at my professional credibility. He claimed his name was associated with AVAAZ and began dictating how the relief funds should be used. When the Board of ABARI refuted his proposal, he began assaulting them both personally and professionally. After all his attempts failed, he began to write to our employees, friends and well-wishers about concocted stories and continues to do so to date.
Furthermore, exploiting ABARI, Believers and other partners' body of work , he raised USD 54,867 on the Indiegogo Website. This funding went directly into his personal bank account and there has been no reporting to date of how/if the money was spent in relation to the earthquake.
Similarly ABARI wellwishers had bicycled across Europe to raise money on Gofundme. Their money was also directed to his personal bank account. We still do not know how/if this was spent in reconstruction as proposed.
When I raised these issues, he began attacking the reputation of the board members, and even Avaaz itself. The Board Members are reputed professionals with years of experience in the development sector. They are invaluable consultants, connected to us by various organisations we have collaborated with over the years, who saw potential in our vision and took up an advisory role without any fee.
But Bhupal has been spreading false information to their employers and networks on their financial involvement in abari.org. He has been doing this by sending anonymous emails. Furthermore, he has been instigating our former partners and ex-employees by claiming that they deserve more money than what they were officially paid. Unfortunately, some have bought into the story and are sharing these false claims and the hijacked website on social platforms.
We would like to clarify that the basis of these allegations is defamatory. There is no supporting evidence. The previous abari website (www.abari.org) and the organization that is linked to it Nepalkogaon.org are neither registered nor is there any human representative or face on the page. The website was created post-earthquake, to legitimize funds that was gathered in our name.
ABOUT 350,000 fund irregularities:
We are a construction organization,hence all of our work is tangible and verifiable. The process of constructing these schools, from inception to completion has been a bona fide and legitimate endeavour. Our building designs are approved by the competent agency of the Government of Nepal. The funds were tied to clear deliverables and timeline specified in the legal contract between Avaaz and Abari.
We are happy to share that the schools are completed and have even received acceptance and admiration not only from the students and teachers alike,but also the communities surrounding the precinct. Financial audits have been conducted in compliance of the law and taxes have been paid(where applicable), contrary to the defaming statements made by this person under different pseudo names. As he raised the alarming accusation to the donor, AVAAZ even conducted an independent evaluation of our work with national and international experts. After weeks of thorough independent evaluation, the report stated:
The following sources of information were utilized [for evaluation] : document review; visual evidence; meetings with Abari and multiple partners, project and administrative staff, consultation with government officials, field visits to seven districts where 9 FGDs with males, 5 FGDs with females, 24 KIIs and 14 competency analyses (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats) were conducted. A total of 66 males and 57 females were interviewed as part of the household interviews. The evaluation team also reviewed media coverage, minutes of meetings, and financial documents and tallied them with field data; assessed the internal control and quality assurance system; assessed the scale of transparency and accountability to beneficiaries, donors, and the government and the community complaint mechanism; and evaluated the anti-corruption strategy through assessing supplier qualification, procurement, inventory management, bills and vouchers and other similar matters.
Overall, the evaluation team found both the earthquake response and recovery projects to be highly relevant, timely and effective. The response scores especially highly on strategic factors. This includes maintaining strong relationships with the government, and other stakeholders, maintaining high neutrality and a needs-based focus, delivering programs which succeeded in saving lives, ensuring early recovery and reducing future risks and gaining the high approval and trust of affected communities.
A combination of audit reports, Abari’s own records, bank statements, field reports, observation and consultation with project stakeholders confirmed that 100% of the project budget for the response phase of the project was utilized, and that about 95% of the project budget is utilized for the recovery phase as of January 15, 2017, with the expectation that the remaining 5% will be utilized by the end of February 2017.
Full Report can be read here:
We have tremendous respect for the works of Believers, they are a young group of volunteers who are very passionate and dedicated to their work and vision. We had worked earlier in the relief operation, which we quickly moved out of and went to transitional and permanent shelter/school phase. Few months passed by and they did not make any claims.
I had initially agreed to pay them their claim from the Indiegogo money (as their names was used in fundraising) but since the money didn’t arrive we could not pay them immediately. A year later, we remunerated them under a mutually signed contract.
Here are some of the highlights of the works that were performed using AVAAZ grant
1.Saraswati School, Kampani, Dhulikhel
2. Karthari School, Kavrebhanjyang Kavre
3. Janajyoti School, Bhangeri, Panchkhal
· Design and Dissemination
· Construction and Training
· Capacity Building and Building Enterprise
1. Design and Dissemination:
ABARI believes that through the hands on construction process with locals, not only is a building created, but a whole community can be empowered. Our school design flexible and the involvement from the local community is integral in both the building and planning phase. One of the objectives for this type of ecological building construction is to inspire others to imitate the new style of construction and foster a new trust in the local and vernacular materials.
Major Features of the Design:
· Use of local materials like bamboo and earth.
· Climate Sensitive
· Inspiring and Playful
· Promote local economy
· Empowers local community and promotes local economy.
· Promotes vernacular crafts
SARASWATI SECONDARY SCHOOL
Established 30 years ago in a modest 2-block room, as a primary school, Saraswati now is the 14th highest ranked school in the country. It is built in the remote Badal gaon village of Dhulikhel region, and the school now serves 210 students from kindergarten to grade 10; who come from economically poor and marginalized communities.
The AVAAZ Grant for our ground activity in local communities was channeled to help realize the construction of the school building, train artisans and to create local enterprises. We have finished 2 different 1680 square feet structures. Sita Travels and Vietnam for Nepal are financing the second 1680 square foot block.
Status of the School:
Four fully furnished classroom blocks with play spaces is now complete.
Now that we have finished the 'hardware', we also want to help them with the 'software'. We want to introduce at least 4 hours or art and music per week in their curriculum.
Janajyoti Primary School, Bhangeri, Kavre
Janajyoti is located in a small village just off Arniko Highway in Bhangeri Kavre, is Janajyoti Primary School. This government school, which is accessible by road only in a dry season, serves 40 students who come from the neighboring Tamang and Dalit village. Sushila Ghoresaine, 34, runs the school and is one of the few young female principals in the country. The school had 2 classroom blocks, which were completely destroyed by the April 25th earthquake. When we approached the school, she and her two other female colleagues were teaching the students out in the open.
The school is remote and out of radar of the Education authority or INGOs because according to Sushila,"they want to work in schools that have good road access and public visibility."
Status of the School:
All the major construction of the school is complete. Students are moving in May 15th! We are building another two classroom blocks with the help of Eco-sys and friends of ABARI.
We want to help Sushila get art and music into the curriculum.
Karthari Secondary School
Karthari is one of the oldest schools in Kavre district. Although it has one of the largest student population among the government school in Kavre, like many other government schools in Nepal, it is underfunded and ill-equipped. The April 2015, earthquakes, however further destroyed already struggling school. At the recommendation of Department of Education, ABARI worked with the school committee for the construction of the school.
The construction is complete. The students will move in after the election break!
We want to help the school committee to turn one of the rooms into a school/community library.
Another key element of this project is the Tool Library. As many homes, have to be rebuilt, we thought it was apt to donate constructions tools to the school committee. All the basic tools to make bricks, pour concrete and wood working tools are rented out to community via school at a very minimal cost. This gives extra income to the school while the knowledge and resources for construction skills are passed on to the locals. In this fashion, Janajyoti Primary School makes around 200 USD a month, which is enough to hire an extra teacher.
We designed a simple do-it-yourself 44 pages illustrative manual in local language that shows people how to build strong structures using the approved design. We have submitted over 500 manuals to local communities.
STRENGTHENING RESOURCE BASE
To ensure sustainable use of resources, we developed a robust supply chain of material, in collaboration with the community.
Trained over 300 students and community members on plantation, provide over 3000 numbers of bamboo and other local species
Trained the community to make nursery, organic fertilizer and pesticides, green houses, compressed earth block etc. This strengthens the supply chain and provides additional incomes to farmers.
CAPACITY BUILDING and ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT
Trained over 350 community members , architects, engineers and builders on how to build school with basic training in nursery, welding, woodworking, lime bamboo joinery and brick making, earthquake resistant buildings.
12 of them went to build and train around 60 local villagers on how to make 4 classroom blocks that serves more than 400 students in over 9 villages
120 employed for construction of 3 Avaaz funded schools and 3 schools by various other organization.
24 carpenters out of which 8 are women are employed full time to make bamboo truss and school furniture
2 trained farmer entrepreneurs have planted over 5 hectares of bamboo and they supply bamboo for the school project
55 fully trained brick makers are supplying bricks for various other projects
7 people are working independently as welders.
2 entrepreneur supply graded materials to all the construction sites
The whole philosophy of the construction was based on the principle of owner driven reconstruction. The project was designed such that we build three demonstration schools and in the meantime train provide skill sets to the local community, so that they can build homes on their own.
We can very proudly say, that we have led the way, as people are rebuilding homes as we had envisioned. Especially, in the village of Hokse Kavre, people have borrowed machines from our tool library and built homes in their own volition and with very minimal supervision.
Nepal government has been very slow in providing grants for the reconstruction. They have only provided 500 USD for the reconstruction (out of 3000 USD which was promised) in which 200 USD goes in getting legal permits. Majority of the people are still living in temporary shelters as that money is not even enough to initiate any foundation. Despite this, about 20 homeowners from an impoverished Dalit community have come to build homes using our technology is very rewarding for us. As they do it, they also save cost, as this technology is 30 percent less compared to conventional building.
Despite not getting the total grant, they have almost completed the construction. Moreover, other 30 homes have signed up for our technology, we just wish that government distributed the grants early. Furthermore, seeing our school construction based on this, we have been commissioned to build 16 more classrooms!!
Some Success Stories
Introducing new technology is not an easy process, whether it is a high-tech product for an educated urban crowd or a new farm device for a rural farmer. Communities always ask critical questions regarding the performance, durability, cost, maintenance etc. of any new system. Rural farmers and artisans are especially more critical because they cannot afford to invest in a new product without being absolutely sure of its utility. Furthermore, no product can meet the need of the user at the first go, product development is an iterative process.
For example, since last year, we have been working on a brick press so people can make earthen bricks using materials right off their building site. We made thousands of bricks of different sizes, shapes and material composition. Our designers and builders were constantly on construction sites getting invaluable insights and feedback from the communities. In this constant dialogue we changed the system so that the bricks are easy to make, repair and test. We devised a simple system to test the strength and durability of the brick. Our system is open source, so people can add/remove components as they want. In one of our machine, some masons added a frog in the brick and put the construction date on it.
We are so happy to say that we have found our early adopter in this village of Bhangeri Kavre. Saila Tamang is a young lady, who comes from a modest economic background. She was so impressed with our bricks that she employed young masons who we had trained during the construction process. The masons, hired the machine at a modest Rs. 100 (USD 1) per 1000 bricks, which we had donated to a local cooperative. She has now made 6000 bricks and is waiting for the next government installation to start her work.
Following her practice Resam Tamang, Keshav Hamal and Lakshman Hamal have borrowed machines from the tool library and are building their homes.
House of Keshav Hamal and his wife
House of Laxman Hamal and his wife
House built by Habitat using our technology.
Other Schools that were built by people trained in the projects or that use our same design.
Please download here the full report of our earlier works post earthquake.
We didn’t respond immediately because we and all our partners understood that the stories were all bogus. Some people, however, have bought into the story and spread the story. In hindsight, I realize I should have spoken up earlier to defend against these statements, which are not only reckless but highly defamatory in nature.
We hope that these things are behind us and we can steer clear of defending baseless attacks and focus on our work.
Pittsburgh Bamboo conference 2016