Soon after the Great Earthquake October 2005 Heritage Foundation (HF), through its community and youth outreach arm KaravanPakistan organized a team of volunteers to guide construction of self-built improved vernacular houses, popularly known as the KaravanGhar. Architects and student volunteers hailed from the Glasgow School of Architecture (UK), Ireland, American University at Sharjah (AUS), LSU in USA, Iran and Australia internationally, and from Karachi U, UET Abbottabad, Hyderabad & NCA Lahore, nationally.
The KaravanGhar was built by salvaging stone and wood from the debris while lime, steel mesh and g.i. sheets were provided through the generosity of individual and corporate donors and UNDP. The programme was carried out in 75 remote and dispersed villages of the Siran Valley, Mansehra, NWFP, completing almost 1200 units by March 2006, including 100 units with Nokia funding. The KaravanGhar methodology was utilized by the Japanese NGO Nicco, to build 350 units in Chikar, AJK.
HF-NOKIA Partnership for rehabilitation and regeneration of affected communities was undertaken in April 2007 in Kodar and Jabbar cluster of villages. The objective was to restore pride and self esteem and reestablish a spirit of self reliance.
3 primary schools were taken up in Kodar and Jabbar with Nokia funding, and 2 schools in Haier Paien and Aahl with PSO funding. The structures utilize improved vernacular techniques for seismic resistance. The utilization of local materials and labour has helped in developing a sense of ownership.
Several mountain pathways, measuring over 7 kilometers, have been constructed in the mountainous terrain in collaboration with the communities in Kodar and Jabbar villages, through an arrangement where 2/3 are paid while 1/3 are community volunteers. Additionally, 15,000 pine saplings have been planted in Kodar during August 2007. Another 100,000 saplings are planned for Spring 2008.
Extensive creative workshops have been held with several hundred children since April 2006 by students and faculty of NCA and AUS, as trauma and confidence-building therapy. The 5’ high Destiny Mural by children and women is over 1,000 feet long.
From February to May 2006, a Catalogue of Heritage Assets of the Siran Valley was prepared. Among the most prominent and striking women’s crafts was found to be bead-making. In May 2006, the first-ever women’s gathering in Kodar, attended by over 150 women, helped crystallize the program of craft centres.
The low-cost craft centres were begun by forming committees of 8-10 women. In order to retain authenticity and the spirit of ‘one –of-a-kind’ they are encouraged to use their traditional designs and colour combinations. All the products are purchased by the Nokia-Karavan programme. Beginning with five craft centres in mid- June 2006 and 12 bracelets in the first fortnight, today there are 55 centres at dispersed hilltops involving close to 500 women, with a production of 5,000 ‘Destiny Bracelets’ per month. The program is being carried out from the Project camp office at Kodar Bala. Design, sorting and packaging is carried out at HFP head office, Karachi. So far sales are being promoted through Nokia and HFP friends. 100% of the proceeds are reinvested into the program. Further linkages are essential to meet the exponential rise in production.
The difficult task of establishing outreach in the dispersed communities has been achieved. Programs are being developed to assist in the well being and welfare of women and children through workshops on health and hygiene, and construction of household kitchens and latrines as well as nucleus houses for vulnerable groups.