These Building Blocks Let Kids Help Rebuild Nepal

The set mimics Nepal’s iconic architecture and raises money to repair it.

Two months after the massive earthquake that left around three million people homeless in Nepal, the country is still struggling to raise the $6.6 billion needed to rebuild. Among the standard fundraisers–from T-shirts to concerts and art auctions–a Dutch designer came up with something that could involve a different audience: kids.


A new set of building blocks is designed to look like some of the iconic architecture that was damaged or destroyed in the quake. As kids play with the toys, they can learn a little bit about what happened. The proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity Nepal, and the designers hope to soon also partner with local nonprofits that are rebuilding designs that look like the temples the blocks represent.

“Although the earthquake in Nepal might be a bit much to understand for younger kids, the idea that they themselves can rebuild something that is broken in the world is something that I hope they can learn from these blocks,” says designer Thijs Biersteker. “We will include a picture of the temple before and after the earthquake so they can spot the resemblance.”

One of the designs is a temple, and the other is a smaller shrine called a stupa. “A year ago I traveled trough Nepal and I fell in love with the stupas, which had eyes on them,” Biersteker says. “When I saw a picture of one of the stupas after it had collapsed, I came up with the idea of rebuilding them. I think the eyes on them inspired me to make them for kids.”

Made of a unique recycled plastic made from old bottles and car dashboards, the building blocks are 3-D printed by students at the Technical University Delft.

The kids who have tested the blocks are fans. “I wanted to make a toy aesthetically beautiful for grownups and interesting for the younger ones,” says Biersteker. “When we let a few kids play test-play with them they where so interested in these toys that did not look like their regular toys that they just couldn’t leave them alone.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.