Monday March 23, 2015

Shuheb’s Blog II – paving ways back into a life of dignity

Part I |

Sunday 21st December

We took yet another form of transport in the shape of a boat ride – the only mode of transport that could take us to our destination. A revitalised group of four activists sat eagerly with the images of the pervious day vivid in our minds. Koyra’s beautiful view was painful. The river was a breath-taking view, now home to a site that once brought so much of horror, fear and broken dreams. We visited areas that were struck severely by Cyclone Alia in 2009.


Islamic Relief’s aid was like a yellow elephant in the room, with houses erected, a few meters away from each other, patches of land dedicated to vegetation, deep ponds dedicated to fishery, the community was once again alive. Despite the aid, the ingenuity behind such projects continued to amaze us. In order to receive aid in the form of a house including crucial amenities: a sular (wood fire cooker), a toilet and solar panels for home energy, a fascinating criteria had to be met – the people were required to build their own flight of stairs that go into the house. How beautiful is it that you build your own stairs into your own home, a sense of personal belonging, self-belief and all in all, a sense of honour. I guess at the time I didn’t appreciate the significance behind the “stairs”, but upon reflection its almost a metaphor of paving the way back into a life of dignity, the set of stairs built with your own hands.  We were fortunate enough to speak to an elderly couple who benefitted from the initiative. May Allah’s bless them, they were humble and appreciative for what they received. We learned that their quality of life had improved; to cook needed less wood, the level of sanitation and cleanliness was better and their selection for the programme irrespective of their old fragile age and state reflected the openness and acceptance of all people in danger.


Men in orange visors with the letter “CCP” printed on the back meant we were privileged to meet one of the most important teams on the land we just set our feet on – the Cyclone Preparedness Programme. A team of 4 four volunteers trained to alert the village of any imminent disasters. A short demo explained that the number of flags reflected the seriousness of the disaster and a series of instructions re-emphasised information already taught to the community. Since this was just a demo, the people obviously didn’t react, however we were informed that they would seek the nearest cyclone shelter provided by IR and take with them essentials including any medicine, dried food and portable ovens (provided by Islamic Relief).


Amongst the many projects we visited, the livelihood projects not only intrigued me the most but it also had me most curious before the onset of the visit. We witnessed a number of large fishery projects with a number of boats too, and also huge fields of vegetation – all provided by Islamic relief. Not only a valuable source of income, but also providing food for the village.


It was beyond me to come to terms with how we could influence and improve livelihoods but after seeing the projects executed by IR i was nothing short of mind blown. The famous “give a man a fish for a day…” Rang in my ears the whole time we witnessed these projects. Vegetation, fishery, livestock – all in the hands of the beneficiaries themselves feeding themselves, their children and maintaining a well functioning house with regular respectable income. The small things which IR implement is brilliant for example building houses for the shelter less was made possible only if the family galvanized, worked together and built their own set of stairs. Something so small and simple yet so powerful – although they may receive the aid, it is in their hands to work for it and maintain the ever recurring theme of IRs work, dignity.

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