Peace Corps Training Assignment Criteria

Country: Nepal
Project Name: Nepal Rural Suspension Bridge Program
Volunteer Group Number: 367-77-04
Training Start Date: 7/29/77
Assignment Title: Suspension Bridge Engineer

Requirements: Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering (Structure or Roads) OR General Engineering degree with background in structures or roads. You must be willing to accept impermanent site placement as job entails frequent relocation. You must show interest in community type work in remote areas. The Host Government Department will only accept single male Volunteers.

Volunteer Assignment Description: The major project goal is to survey, design, estimate, and oversee construction of rural foot suspension bridges in mountainous regions of Nepal. This could mean walking from one to five days to reach your site, as no roads exist in the hills. Your physical condition, health, and legs must be in excellent shape.

The following information reflects a good approximation of your assignment, but circumstances and priorities may change. Your commitment to serving in this program is expected to overcome the disappointments and frustration that will be a part of your life in Nepal.

The Remote Area and Local Development Department (RA & LDD) will approve and select project sites. The LDD will assign you to remote areas of the country to arrange the transportation logistics from regional LDD offices and workshops to the nearest roadheads or district centers and ultimately to the particular project sites. This process may take from one to five months. You will then oversee and supervise construction which entails excavation of both sides of the river to determine and construct appropriate anchors, arrangement of work force to cut wood for the walkway and break stones for concrete work, erection of steel or wood towers, hanging cables and suspender rods, assembling the walkway and proper fencing, and preparing approaches to the bridge to facilitate its use by the local people. During this time you will train some local people, probably with little or no education, to maintain the bridge after its completion. 75% of your tour will be spent in the field surveying sites or implementing a project, where you will be isolated from other Westerners. The time not spent in the field will be spent in the regional offices procuring supplies, working on designs and estimates, and arranging for transportation of materials. Slack season time (monsoon) will find you concentrating on survey and design work and possibly developing and implementing secondary projects, such as construction or renovation of primary schools especially roofing, alternative uses and identification of local and appropriate technology, etc.

Your primary assignment is not highly structured and has little direct supervision. A great deal of your satisfaction will depend on your own innovation, initiative, and commitment to serve the village people of rural Nepal under the direction of the RA & LDD. A great deal of flexibility is required as the frustrations and obstacles of working within the Nepalese bureaucracy and in different cultural contexts will be difficult to overcome. Your patience and acceptance of the situation in Nepal is an essential part of your assignment. If you do not believe that your enthusiasm and commitment will last for the full two year period, then please do not accept this assignment.

Your living conditions will be primitive: mud and stone huts with no heating, electricity, bathroom, kitchen, or nearby running water except probably the river you are trying to bridge. Sleeping accommodations are usually on straw mats on a mud floor. You will essentially be living out of a backpack for two years. Rice and lentils is the staple diet with meat 3 or 4 times a month. There will be isolation and loneliness combined with a cultural curiosity by Nepalese to leave you with little or no privacy. There will be long periods without intellectual stimulation as you must communicate in Nepali and it may take 6 months before you feel comfortable in that medium. Female companionship is essentially nonexistent. However, to see the bridge towers which support the cables being erected and the walkway being laid after so many months of effort and frustration evokes a pride in knowing that perhaps you were the only person there at the time who was willing to go through with it.

The two phases of a 3 month training program will provide the necessary skills for you to build on throughout your service. The first phase will provide practical experience in bridge construction while living with Nepali families, sharing the food, language, customs and culture. All of the objectives are within reach of anyone who approaches training seriously, with commitment to serving as a Volunteer in this program.

Please do not accept this assignment if you just want to check Nepal out.