Community Development

"You kept your promise!"

By Jon Hargreaves

 What a joy to be back in the remote Maharashtran village of Kahandol in time to celebrate the inauguration of their two new wells.  Just four months earlier I had been standing on a dried up riverbed with my Indian colleagues, Shilpa, Sam and Akshay and the head of the village, Patil Ramdas Warde.  Ramdas told us how the drought had brought great hardship to his village and he asked us if there was anything we could do to help.

HCR began working with Seva Social Welfare Foundation (Seva) in January 2018, with a vision to use a community-centred media approach to transform indigenous tribal communities, known as Adivasis, who are some of the most disadvantaged people in the country.  “In the last 10 months since the first audio programmes were distributed we have seen a dramatic decline in many illnesses as people have changed their habits around water, sanitation and hygiene,” Shilpa Shinde Seva’s chief executive told me.  Besides monthly health camps, the community have been receiving creative audio programmes on “speakerboxes” (Mp3 players) which have already brought about significant change on a range of issues ranging from health and hygiene to livelihoods and the importance of educating female children. 

But it was the water crisis that has focused the attention of the Seva team for the last four months.  With support from HCR and the very generous gift of British family with a passion for India, the Seva team facilitated the sinking of two wells and tanks that will mean the village will never lack for water again. 

New wells and water tanks mean the people of Kahandol will never run out of water again.

New wells and water tanks mean the people of Kahandol will never run out of water again.

After colourful tribal dances and music played on traditional instruments followed by a community meal, Ramdas turned to me and said, “This water has given the gift of life to this community for generations to come.  You came back.  You kept your promise.  Thank you!”

 

In September we will be facilitating a major evaluation to assess how the project has impacted the community with a view to scaling the project up to reach many more tribal villages across the state and then across the country.

If you would like to support this project or would like further information please contact hcruk@h-c-r.org.

Spraying for peace ...

By Johnny Fisher and Hazeen Latif

These community volunteers in Majukay are amazing! Despite the intense summer heat and the fasting period, they got out and sprayed mosquito hotspots in their community to prevent Dengue fever infections.

Has it made a difference? This year we heard people saying, more people are gathering together again in the places where community happens. In previous years there were too many mosquitoes and people avoided their normal meeting places in mosquito season. People meeting together is a big win for peacebuilding and the mosquito numbers are down - that’s a big win in the battle against disease.

Local government funded the spraying activities after hearing HCR Pakistan’s partner Naway Saher (NSCSG) talk about community concerns on local radio.

“We didn’t realize that our voice was so effective and strong!”

By Hazeen Latif

Change is happening and its infectious! The development changes we have seen in the last few months in Majukay, a community in Charsadda, Pakistan, were almost unimaginable 4 years ago when the community members set ambitious goals for being a healthy thriving society. It feels like a corner has been turned, and the change is gaining momentum.

  • The main street leading into the village is being upgraded with a concrete surface. Until a few months ago it was a rough, soil track scarred with ditches and puddles.

Concreting the road surface. Majukay, April 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Concreting the road surface. Majukay, April 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

  • A new transformer is soon to be installed. This summer people can enjoy a cool breeze from their fans. Previously the low capacity in the electricity supply meant people suffered in the heat with fans running at tortoise speed.

  • The local administration has agreed to spray the community to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and spreading Dengue fever. Summer heat is on its way and with it the risk of Dengue increases.

Structural development like this doesn’t happen easily because of bureaucratic inertia. But something new has happened in the last year few months. Local authorities have started to release funds for development as they pay new attention to the community needs, and to the appetite for change.  Other are taking notice too. Nearby villages want to know how to bring similar changes to their own communities.

“It is all due to our radio program and WhatsApp group”

Zahid Ullah Zahid, who heads the Naway Saher Community Services Group.

Councillor in NS Studio, April 2019. HCR Pakistan

Councillor in NS Studio, April 2019. HCR Pakistan

Naway Saher formed a small radio production team, trained by HCR Pakistan, and, since November 2018, they have been broadcasting a community radio programme in Pushto language on a local FM station. The village voice is getting louder and stronger through radio and it reached the ears of the district councillor.  He decided to support the new structural developments and even came to be interviewed in the radio studio.

“We didn’t realize that our voice was so effective and strong”

One of the newly trained production team members.

So far the Majukay story has been one of gradual change. People have been coming together to discuss issues and establish unity. Less and less people have the mindset that nothing will happen and only the government should do everything. Naway Saher (New Dawn) Community Services Group, supported by HCR Pakistan, has held community workshops, village committees, and youth sports events. Village elders have given their support. Families have started boiling water for drinking to avoid illness from contaminated water sources. In 2016 HCR Pakistan supported the community to dig a well and the well has been giving clean water since. People come from far away to get the only clean drinking water and are claiming that it is a miracle as the water never stops giving odorless good water.

The Majukay story is spreading – upwards, outwards and inwards.

“More people are joining with us” says Zahid Ullah. Not only are surrounding villages wanting to see similar changes, but more people from within the community want to get involved.

Help keep this viral effect going! HCR Pakistan is seeking funding to help Naway Saher become even more inclusive, with more media content created for and by women and girls. We are also seeking funding to help two more communities in nearby districts to develop community-centred media projects. Please contact us if you want to know more, or you can Donate via this web site.

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.