“I’m deeply impressed by the resilience and self-help spirit of the community. I am delighted to be here and to see the joy returning to the people’s faces by getting their houses. I can foresee that these houses will sooner become home,” expressed Neill Garvie, Program Manager for Christian Aid, at a ceremony on April 20, 2012 in Ahmed Dars Village, Sindh. The event marked the completion and handing over of the first forty houses under CWS-P/A’s housing reconstruction project in seventeen villages of Sujawal, Thatta District.
Ahmed Dars was destroyed during the 2010 floods. After months in a camp, the families returned to a place that no longer resembled their former home. The village was further devastated during the 2011 monsoon season. For more than a year, they lived in tents and makeshift shelters. The community’s livelihood was lost because the main source of income was labor on agricultural land. Since the floods, the community survives on reduced daily labor and selling milk. Women in the village additionally contribute to family income through selling handmade embroidery. The village lacks basic facilities such as electricity. There is a school, but the teacher comes irregularly so the children do not receive the education to which they are entitled. Fortunately, the village is located approximately four kilometers from a larger town in which health facilities can be accessed for those who can afford them.
CWS-P/A is providing seventy-eight households in this village with new homes. The houses are constructed to better withstand floods and other disasters. The design also includes sanitation facilities and a floor plan that is culturally preferred. Beyond housing construction, CWS-P/A spent months working to build capacity and encourage ownership within the community.
By providing the community with health and hygiene awareness and training on disaster risk reduction, the families are empowered to make choices that can improve their health and safety. Ali Dino Malah expressed his happiness in receiving his house and shared, “My family and I will shift in this house, and we will try to keep it neat and clean.” The time spent without shelter posed many hardships for his family, but he tried to inspire them that better days would come. For him, the better days came when CWS-P/A visited his village, “Like a candle, CWS-P/A brought light in the dark moments of our life. Then, we could see that our happiness was not so far away.” He further discussed his wishes for his children to acquire an education and become good role models for the village.
CWS-P/A’s Deputy Director Disaster Management Program, Allan Calma, appreciated the community at the ceremony, “I am very pleased to personally witness the positive transformation of this village primarily with the physical aspects but more importantly, the positive attitude and the overwhelming participation from the community members themselves at Ahmed Dars.”
Ahmed Dars is setting an example for other villages, too. The community has taken ownership beyond the project level and realizes the importance of maintaining their village. Prior to CWS-P/A’s intervention, the community members did not take responsibility for the village’s upkeep. After receiving training on leadership skills from CWS-P/A, the community contacted the road department following which the road in the village was repaired. With increased awareness on hygiene and environmental factors such as pollution, the community also took initiative to clear the village of trash and other debris and at the household level adopted good practices of washing hands. They also painted their houses and added finishing touches like mud plaster on the roofs and in front of their houses.
After Ahmed Dars was selected for housing reconstruction, CWS-P/A established village organizations. These village organizations took the lead on beneficiary selection. They also helped encourage community members to participate and act upon training sessions conducted by CWS-P/A. Over several months, the village participated in sessions on health and hygiene, leadership skills, disaster risk reduction, and the complaint mechanism. The community is also developing plans to incorporate learning from the disaster risk reduction training through plantation throughout the village and constructing a flood-resistant boundary wall around the residential area. The housing project appears to be the starting point for positive change within Ahmed Dars.
Janna, a sixty-five year old mother of twelve children and the president of the female village organization, received her house during the ceremony. Afterward, she commented on behalf of the community, “We are thankful to CWS-P/A for giving us shelter, and now, we can live a good standard of life. We will make these houses homes.”