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FEATURE STORY

Community Center Provides Place for Celebration and Learning

June 5, 2013

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The Hous Karbas Community Development Council got this community hall built using funds from the National Solidarity Program.

Graham Crouch/World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A community center built under the National Solidarity Program (NSP) in the Enjil district in Herat Province represents a lifeline for many residents, who use it for social and educational activities.
  • The NSP is the government’s flagship program, supported by the World Bank, ARTF, JSDF, and several bilateral donors aim at strengthening local community institutions through reconstruction and development projects.
  • Communities, through a community development council, decide themselves on priority projects to be funded, with more than 80% opting for rural infrastructure improvement.

HERAT, Afghanistan – It’s a place of endless prayer. Every day, the community center at Hous-Karbas plays host to weddings, funerals, and hundreds of children who recite the Quran for hours in an upstairs room.

Here, Afghan women also socialize, learn stitching or shed illiteracy by taking classes. “In so many ways, this place has been an answer to our prayers,” says Safia Ghulami, a member of the community development council (CDC), which helps oversee activities at the center in the Enjil district, on the outskirts of Herat city in western Afghanistan.

Together with nine men and seven women on the CDC, the group applied for funds from the National Solidarity Program (NSP) four years ago to build the center.

NSP is the Afghan government’s flagship program aimed at strengthening and developing communities, supported by the World Bank, Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF), and several bilateral donors.

Under the program, communities elect their own CDCs, which then set about determining their priorities. So far, about 80% have pursued infrastructure improvements such as water supply, irrigation, roads, and electricity.

Improved village life

In Hous-Karbas, where about 1,000 families earn their income primarily from farming, tiny factories, and irregular manual jobs, a community center was needed because there was no space to gather in large numbers, says CDC head Haji Abdullah.

“This was very important for us, to have a place for celebrations, but also so more of our children could study the Quran,” he says.


" Many people are really poor here, and most are illiterate, so they’re really happy this project happened, so they can learn to read, write, or make money for their families. Just staying at home is a waste of time. This place has been really useful for us. "

Safia Ghulami

Community Development Council member

“Since we created this place, our village life has improved and security is much better,” remarks Abdullah, acknowledging that insurgents have created trouble for them in recent years.

Women wanted a place where they could gather, since they are not permitted at the mosque, says council member Rozia Omarzai. “Now our children can study upstairs, while we can do literacy, tailoring and other classes downstairs. We also get out of our homes to meet with other ladies,” she says with a shy smile.

“Our country is improving and we like to come here, and work step by step with the men to build our community.”

Naseeba Sharifi, another council member, says she recently held her aunt’s funeral at the center. The place was so crowded that people came in two shifts to remember her elderly relative, recite the Quran, and share a meal served from the center’s small kitchen.

Most recently, Sharifi has been learning to crochet and knit items to sell at the local market, so she can add to her family’s income.

Safia says the center represents a lifeline for many community members. “Many people are really poor here, and most are illiterate, so they’re really happy this project happened, so they can learn to read, write or make money for their families,” she says. “Just staying at home is a waste of time. This place has been really useful for us.”



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