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Construction of Community Centre

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Project Title: Construction of Community Centre

Duration of Project: 21 Months (July 2007 March 2009)

Funded By: Provincial Government of Carinthia (Austria) and Private Donations from Austria


 

Background and Objectives/History

 

Austrian Development Agency (ADA) has remained the main contributor in institutional capacity building of the Haashar Association since year 2004. While Haashar was in evolutionary phases, an earthquake measuring 7.6 at the Ricter Scale destroyed almost every thing in the project area of Haashar Association. ADA along with other donors contributed generously for relief, rehabilitation and development of the earthquake affected communities.

While relief and rehabilitation activities were in full swing, an idea to construct a multipurpose community centre in Nikki Mohri (Hafizabad) village of the project implementation area was developed in view of the fact that there did not exist any building for collective gatherings, meetings and trainings. This concept was well supported by Dr. Gerhard Payr, a well wisher of communities residing Siran Valley of District Mansehra where he worked for more than eight years as CTA of GTZ funded Social Forestry Project. A series of dialogue among Haashar management, local Joint forest management committees facilitated by Gerhard Payr concluded that a multipurpose building should be built that could serve the purpose of;

 

1)      Trainings and capacity building of the communities

2)      Dispensary to provide medical aid to women and children

3)      A meeting place for the communities and community based institutions, and

4)      A living place for the field staff of Haashar Association

 

Haashar, on the basis of above mentioned facts, forwarded a proposal to the provincial Government of Carinthia through facilitation of Dr. Gerhard Payr (Austria) for construction of a multipurpose Community Centre in Village Nikki Mohri (Hafiz Abad) of Union council Jabori District Mansehra. In addition, certain individuals from Austria, courtesy Gerhard Payr, committed some money for the purpose. Although the initial money available could not meet requirements for the construction need of the building but still Haashar started construction of the building. The actual construction work started in July 2007 and was completed in March 2009.

 

Planning and Finance

Haashar’s proposal for construction of a multipurpose community centre got approved from provincial Government of Carinthia and a grant of Euro10490 was transferred into Haashar accounts. At the same time some donations from Austria were also provided to start construction of the centre. The finances available for the construction of Community Centre were very limited and further decreased when inflation of up to 30% was faced by the country.

 

Project Implementation

Although actual work on construction of community centre started in July 2007, a series of planning meetings and brainstorming exercises were held from 15 March to 1st April, 2007 during Dr. Gerhard Payr’s backstopping mission to Haashar Association.

 

Engineer Fritz Oettl an Austrian architect contributed his tireless efforts and time in developing design of the building that should be earthquake resistant and fit to the local culture and traditions.

 

A field trip was arranged on 25th of March 2007 to physically assess the construction site. Mr. Qamar Zeb Khan, a local engineer was hired to look after the Dhajji construction of the community centre. It was also decided that supervision and administrative cost for construction of Community Centre would be borne by Haashar Association.

 

The design of the Community Centre drafted by Architect Fritz Oettl reached Haashar on 11th of April 2007. It was thoroughly examined by the Haashar management and the engineer. The design got approval with many thanks to Fritz Oettl for his sincere efforts. Mr. Qamar Zeb Khan was asked to develop construction plan and cost estimate for the center. The whole thing was ready by June 2007.

 

The excavation of foundation started in July 2007 while transportation of construction material (sand, cement, iron bars etc) also started at the same time. The design of the centre was special one and needed special skilled labour which was not available inside the project area. Moreover, such skillful persons were difficult to be taken to such remote site. Despite all odds, the construction of the community centre was successfully secured by March 2009. The political situation in region did not allow proper inauguration of the building yet the community centre is functional and meetings/medical camps are held in the community centre.

 

Operationalisation of the Community Centre

During the period of its construction, the local Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) contributed actively in supervision of the building. The conducted watch and ward of the centre, contributed in cash and timber for Dhajji work at the time when Haashar forecasted a shortfall in financial provisions for the construction work.

During final stages of construction work, Haashar held consultative meetings with the local communities on future use of the building. Although the construction work of the building was finalized in March 2009, the local JFMCs have started making use of the building since December, 2008. Regular monthly meetings of the JFMCs are held in the premises of the building. A medical camp under Concern Worldwide funded project was organized in the same building. Haashar management held a meeting with all the three presidents of the local JFMCs and local U/C Nazim to discuss future functioning of the Community Centre. The following decisions have already been taken;

  • An executive council comprising six members from communities (Two members from each JFMC) and two members of Haashar Association has been constituted to look after the Community Centre. This committee will also be responsible to decide maintenance and utilization of the Community Centre. ToRs of the Executive Committee are being drafted.
  • A local medical technician along with his wife who is also a medical technician have been contracted to start dispensary in the Community Centre. The couple is well experienced and enjoys local support being main contributor in medical aid during October, 2005 earthquake. The deployment of the medical technician is based on recommendation of the executive council.
  • Six monthly medical camps will be held in the community centre building so as to provide medical aid to the local communities as envisioned in the objectives of the Community centre.
  • After termination of Misereor funded Livelihood Rehabilitation Project, the local JFM area is now under Concern funded Community Based Livelihoods Development Project (CBLDP). Community centre will remain focus of all project interventions.
  • The premises of the Community Centre would serve as Training Centre for Women Folk of the area.
  • Although in general, the Operational and Maintenance cost of the community centre would be borne by Haashar initially for at least two years, the management of Haashar is in the process of contacting various donors for the purpose.

 

Problems and Success Story’s

Completion of a multipurpose community centre building is a milestone in the history of Haashar and the local JointForest management Committees. At one end, this centre is an opportunity and blessing for the local people where they are free to meet, to plan for their own development and venture for new avenues of development, it is a great responsibility at the same time. The construction of the building is also result of tireless efforts of the Haashar staff, especially those implementing ADA and Misereor funded rehabilitation projects that rendered extra time and efforts for this noble cause of communal welfare. A variety of experiences and hindrances were confronted during implementation of the project. A brief summary is given below;

  • During early stages of its construction, the Engineer hired for the purpose left Haashar, affecting a number of problems for the staff. The budgetary provisions did not allow hiring of a new engineer; hence the engineers working with other project visited the site from time to time.
  • About six Kilometer road to the site of community centre is vulnerable to landslides and frequent erosions especially during monsoon and winter snowfalls. Clearing of road for transport of material was a challenging job. Haashar requested the local JFMCs to come forward who carried out clearing of road through provision of free labour several times.
  • At the time of construction of Community Centre, the local communities were extremely busy in reconstruction of their houses (through ERRA) and Cattle Sheds (through ADA/Misereor funded projects). Both the activities needed labour and constructional timber. Haashar had to face tremendous problems in view of this situation as both were needed for the construction of community centre. Although most of the constructional timber had to be purchased from local market, the communities also shared some timber on special requests made during JFMC meetings.
  • The country witnessed worst ever inflation in daily use items during year 2008 that implicated negatively the construction work. This situation also resulted in budgetary constraints for completion of the Community Centre. An SOS call to Provincial Government of Carinthia through Dr. Gerhard Payr was well responded and extra funding amounting Euros 8525 were provided by the Carinthia Government.

 

Conclusions and Follow up

The construction of Community centre is a milestone in the history of Haashar and the local JFMCs. It is an opportunity for both to enhance and upgrade their capacities. The building of the community centre has an office space to accommodate JFMCs as well. Haashar is looking forward to register JFMCs as independent civil society organizations with Social Welfare Department. Under such circumstances the community centre would play a pivotal role where a community organization has an attractive office premises available to conduct trainings of men, women and children.