Community Development

A ‘New Dawn’ for Volleyball in Pakistan

By Hazeen Latif

When it comes to community empowerment, service providers often look at what resources and strengths THEY have and what THEY can do to meet community needs.  But it is too easy to overlook what the community already has, to meet its own needs, even among poor and marginalised communities.  As a core value of HCR, whenever we work with communities we always begin by listening to them and helping them to listen to each other, exploring what assets and strengths they already have, before we begin to explore what things need to be improved (see blog “It’s a ting thing”).

In our work among village communities in Pakistan’s KPK province, for example, it would have been far too easy to focus on the desperation felt by many young people, which has often resulted in frustration, substance abuse and even gang violence.  But as we began our listening activities, we heard stories of youngsters who really wanted to do something meaningful with their lives, but didn’t know how.  We also  found tremendous energy, talent and enthusiasm for sports as well as plenty of open ground to organize sporting activities such as cricket competitions.  

With HCR’s help, the young people recently came together to register a community-based organization calling themselves, “New Dawn Community Services Group” and one of their first activities has been to set up a volleyball court on some unused open ground. 

A “New Dawn” for volleyball in a village in KPK Province, Pakistan

A “New Dawn” for volleyball in a village in KPK Province, Pakistan

“New Dawn” Volleyball has now become an important feature of village life for both young and old alike as some gather to play and others to watch.  As one father told his son as he came in starving, after a long game of volleyball: “It is a miracle that you are home early today”. 

Among other community support activities, one of New Dawn’s next goals is to bring neighbouring communities together to play a cricket tournament, something we first tried successfully in 2015. 

Besides taking young people off the streets and giving them healthy activity to do, sport really does bring people together, but best of all, it’s completely run by the community and for the community. And it all started with a simple act of listening!

Relationships built on trust

By Hazeen Latif

Sitting in a “hujra” (a room in the house for meetings and discussions) my host’s uncle asked me, “What is your interest in coming to our village (Swabi, KPK)?”  This question is rarely asked of anyone when it comes to hospitality in KPK region, a province to north of Pakistan.

Before any kind of reply from me, my friend’s (the host) uncle changed the tone and said, “Oh, you must not misunderstand me. It rarely happens that people come to visit us in this hot weather, with no facility of any kind in the village, and having to sit on the ground with us. Please do not take this the wrong way as we are honored by your presence.” This dialogue gave me an opportunity to share how I felt in their midst. It was through my friend that I had been invited to visit the community and asked to help the community become healthy and prosperous. I told them that my visit to the community was the fulfilment of a promise to my friend; no more than that.

In the hujra (house), a council member from government was present who was elected to the union council for that region comprising of eight villages of which one was the village where I was sitting. All the men agreed to develop a CBO (community based organisation) for the villages. They all happily decided on the name which is Khush-hali meaning prosperity. Amazingly, they all agreed on the name. With my guidance, they identified the issues of the community for the first time and even proposed some solutions.  Major issues which came up in our discussion were education for all, but mostly for girls, and health issues as there is only one BHU (basic health unit) operational in the region for over ten thousand adults in the union council. Other issues discussed were youth being neglected, hygiene and poor infrastructure. The men asked me to develop a program and to proceed in developing Khush-hali by establishing a proper legal frame work. The meeting ended with a delicious lunch we all shared by eating from the one dish.     

Rain can't stop us

By Annie Sarfraz

Community leader: “Sir, you could have cancelled the meeting and stayed home. It’s been raining for the last three days”.

Hazeen: “Rain can’t stop us”!

hazeen with water behind.jpg

HCR has been working in Charsadda village in Pakistan since 2013, using the communication for development approach to help people identify, understand and resolve their health and social development issues and challenges. Many successful community initiatives have come from this approach such as the medical camp, cricket tournament, well water project, and the microenterprise awareness campaign. These have helped the community realise the importance of social capital and the power of people to challenge and change the circumstances of life.

A meeting facilitated by Hazeen Latif was held at a primary school which did not have benches or chairs. Instead, members sat on jute cloth mats. Even with rain and extremely cold weather conditions, members of the community participated and gave their consent to form a Community Based Organisation (CBO). Hazeen asked the group “what do you want your children to become”? One of the members who is a tailor said,”I want my son to become a doctor not less than that”. A fish seller wants all his five children to become educated and never ever sell fish. HCR will continue to work with the group to identify issues and challenges faced by the community, and work with the community to develop ways to overcome these.

Local heros make a difference in Pakistan village

By Hazeen Latif

Sahib Gul may be disabled, but his talent for art and music speaks for itself and he is a person who never gives up.  “My name is Sahib Gul, which means king of the roses,” he told a meeting of the newly established ‘New Dawn Community Services’, a community-based organization (CBO) in a village in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.  “I love to sing, it’s my passion,”  he said, as he began to demonstrate his great voice and amazing ability to “beatbox”.  

Sahib Gul is just one of the many community members that has benefited from HCR’s ‘New Dawn’ project, which inspired the local community to register a CBO to help us bring health and development to the village.  “I may be crippled and disabled,” Sahib Gul told me, “but I want to help my community.” 

We have been working in KPK Province since 2014 on a number of projects including micro-enterprise development, a mobile health clinic, radio programming and most recently a new well for clean drinking water.   The well has been so successful that many have stopped going to the local health worker with stomach complaints.  Zahid, who has a clinic nearby, showed me the incoming patients register saying, “Now, fewer patients are coming with gastrointestinal problems.” Sahib Gul has also been feeling much better after using the new bore water.

It’s a privilege to be working in this area, with people who really want to make a difference and take responsibility for their own change.  To me, they are local heroes.  As I met recently with the community for the second monthly meeting to form the CBO, we began to lay plans for next year, to do more to help in the area of health, education and we will be developing FM radio programmes to be a voice for the voiceless.    

Local artist and musician Sahib Gul demonstrates the art of beatboxing

Local artist and musician Sahib Gul demonstrates the art of beatboxing