Rebuilding lives

By Adeela Akmal
Tue, 03, 18

This week, You! takes a look at an initiative taken by ‘The Heritage Foundation’ that focuses on training and capacity building of the marginalised communities of Makli...

This week, You! takes a look at an initiative taken by ‘The Heritage Foundation’ that focuses on training and capacity building of the marginalised communities of Makli...

The villages in Makli Goth are a barren land with extreme poverty. There are no proper shelters, shortage of water and open defecation are some of the leading causes in the spread of diseases among the villagers. These conditions have led the community to begging and external aid in order to survive. However, there are various welfare organisations in Pakistan who are taking initiatives especially in the rural areas and making efforts to improve the living conditions of impoverished people. But in the process, these marginalised communities often become financially dependent on such organisations. And sadly once the aid has stopped, it worsens their situation.

Fortunately, there are organisations that are actively working on capacity building in order to enable these communities to thrive on their own. One such organisation is ‘The Heritage Foundation’ (HF) that aims to develop and strengthen the skills of these marginalised communities in order to survive, adapt and flourish in the fast-changing world.

The foundation has been actively working to preserve the Makli necropolis, and making efforts to help the mendicant community residing in the adjoining villages of the cemetery. In 2015, HF started the Zero Carbon Cultural Centre (ZC3) workshop under the initiative ‘Safe Shelter and Clean Water for all’. Through this start-up, the community is provided and taught how to build the sustainable, cheap and DRR (Disaster Risk Reduction) tested shelters, eco-toilets (Lari OctaGreen), raised water hand pumps and the clay stoves (Pakistan chulah). This not only improves the quality of their life but also gives them a sense of dignity. The foundation’s aim is to construct 1000 DRR-tested shelters, 250 raised water hand pumps, 500 eco-toilets, 1000 chulahs, 1000 raised platforms, 500 solar water racks and 20 women’s centres through the programme.

Yasmeen Lari addressing the spectators

The initiative encourages the ‘do good for others’ sentiment that works on their capacity building and enables the community to grow even when they are not around.

Champa used to be a local agricultural worker in Makli Goth, living in substandard conditions. Through the workshop, she learned how to make clay stoves that were fuel-efficient and smokeless, which allowed her to earn a decent living by selling them to the locals at mere 200 rupees. With this new found skill, she has managed to sell 40 million stoves and now continues to teach this craft to poor women and widows for free. Also, her efforts have even earned her an award which she received at the Sindh Governor House.

Similarly, Kareema used to be a beggar in the same community until she learned the art of kashi through ZC3. She was taught how to make handicrafts and jewellery, which she sells in the market to earn a living. Now, six more families work as kashi artisans rather than begging.

The workshop

The four-day workshop was conducted in collaboration with Pakistan Council of Architects and Town planners (PCATP) and International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism (INTBAU). Students of Architecture from universities in Sindh and Balochistan volunteered for the programme, where had a hands-on experience to make the prefabricated panels for the shelters and worked with vigour in the scorching heat of Sindh. “From hammering to cutting and assembling, we did everything from scratch,” told Ravaida Jafri, a student of Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro. “The villagers were taught how to assemble it and then carry panels through donkey carts to wherever they are needed.”

Talking about the experience, the students expressed their joy and a feeling of satisfaction to work for such a cause. “The best thing was when we saw the execution [of the structures] and the expression of the locals. It was definitely a positive experience,” added Nauman Tariq, a student of BUITEMS (Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences).

Revival of the ‘Kashi’ Art

Kashi (glazed and encausted tile work) is an ancient art, which has been practiced by skilled artisans throughout the subcontinent. HF has been involved in the revival of kashi art that is found in Makli, Hala and Nasarpur. Yasmeen Lari, Chair and CE of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, spoke about the efforts being made to keep the dying art alive, “The monuments in Makli are made with beautiful kashi which need to be preserved along with the craft itself. Unfortunately, the kashi that is being produced had defects and would often break easily. We started a research in the vicinity after UNESCO approached us for its revitalisation project which was led by Ms Juni Han. Two Italian experts in ceramics had been called to guide in improving the ancient art through scientific methods. We conducted workshops for the locals, and in good cooperation with the Department of Archaeology and Culture and UNESCO, an atelier was setup in the Bufferzone of Makli which allowed us to disseminate this [art of kashi] in the community.”

Zero Carbon Cultural Centre (ZC3) workshop

Expanding the initiative overseas

Safeeyah Moosa, CEO of Spiritual Chords South Africa - that works towards the betterment of underprivileged societies in South Africa and around the world - spoke about expanding the good work being done by Yasmeen Lari and the HF all the way to her country. Spiritual Chords funded the water handpumps in Makli and they will be introducing the Flood-resistant Zero Carbon Shelters to South Africa. “I was gifted a book on Pakistan’s rural areas. And while looking at the pictures, I wept because the people of Pakistan are going through the same situation as the people of my soil. It’s heart-breaking to see these people living the lives they are living and we’re honoured to be able to help them.”

Changing Perspectives

When living in such impoverished circumstances, the locals were in low spirits with no hope of betterment. They survived on the food from the asthana and for the rest, they begged. In order to break this cycle, the locals were asked to arrange material such as shrubs, stones and bamboo, to build the structures. One of the participants at the workshop, Mohammad Tahir from University of Karachi, spoke to You! about witnessing a change in the mindsets of the people. “They had just one answer to every question: we’re poor. But, we’ve seen a change in their attitudes now. The families that held grudges with one another are now working together to make these shelters for them.”