By Ghulam Mussa Shimshali
A socio-economic survey conducted in GB makes it evident that there is no community based health center existing in Gojal valley. However, community based schools are operated by some local community organizations.
It refers to institutional instability, lack of struggle for common development and trend of individualism. Existence and stability of institution in an area is the key to development that provides a platform for community to take-off. Institutional development is conditioned to some indicators such as improved technical capacity, improved financial capacity, relevancy and validity etc, which are said to be indispensable for effectiveness and efficient performance of any development institutions. For this process highly technical staff/volunteers and other resources are required, which are not scarce but hard to find out and manage.
Shimshal has been cut off-from rest of the world for centuries that had restricted people to depend on subsistence agriculture and livestock. Education, health and other basic facilities could not be easily accessed due to 12 days treacherous journey to reach KKH. With the passage of time community volunteers devoted their time, resources and even life for development of the area and constructed pony tracks, Foot Bridge and rest house (local huts for the travelers). Strive for development through volunteerism made access to education possible for the children, as infrastructure communication was developed on self-help bases. That was a starting point for the masses of shimshal to access basic education by moving in the lower Gojal and Hunza but it was still a challenging Job. Students from Shimshal had to cross shimshal river at 39 places and passing through dangerous rocky and land sliding mountain areas to travel in the down countries. Accepting the challenge, many individuals did complete their education and having executive positions now a day.
The process of travelling by foot on the dangerous shimshal rout to the down countries remained continued up to 2004 but finally on 25th October 2004 a narrow jeep able road was completed with the tireless effort of government of Pakistan, AKRSP and community. Completion of the road provided
opportunities for the inhabitants to easily access health and education facilities but it was not possible for the entire population to travel in the down countries dued to feeble economic position. By sorting out solution for this problem the community and specifically educated segment of the community reached on a point to strengthen their existing local volunteer institutions and establish new organization.
The first step toward institutionalization was taken by establishing Shimshal Nature Trust (SNT) by the dedicated educated youth with the help and supervision of a Canadian professor Dr. David Butz (a philanthropist, who has been working for development of Shimshal community for last two decades and has a great contribution in the field of conservation, education, tourism development and many other areas) and support of the community. The purpose of this trust was maximum utilization of existing natural resources for betterment of the community. This organization has played a vital role in the development of the area. The prime achievement of SNT is to start community based hunting programme in the area, which is a major source of income for the community. Moreover, SNT has greater contribution in the field of education and research programmes for students and school teacher.
To cope up with the problems, covering all sectors was not possible for a single institution because carrying out multi-prong activities had led progress of SNT toward decline. The community activists realized need of another institution, specifically
Focusing health and education sector, in 2004 another organization, namely Nawbahar Educational welfare and development organization (NEWDO) was formed supported by Germen friends, who have been visiting shimshal for last several years. Initially NEWDO worked on education, constructed a school building and putted it on running to meet the immediate need of the area. The school is the first English medium and only secondary school in the valley. Professional teachers from down countries were hired to ensure quality of education and another project in terms of teachers’ hostel, computer lab, teaching materials and training facilities was started in 2007 and completed in the same year.
Completion of Nawabahar Secondary School provided a chance for the poor rural children to access quality education on very low cost. Students, who could not continuo their education after passing 8th class due to huge expenses in the cities are now studying in the school( some are paying minimal fee and some are studying free of cost).
In the recent year, another innovative project was started by NAWDO through establishment of ECD (Early Childhood development) Center in the village. For this purpose a building costing more then 4 million Rupees was constructed and fully equipped with ECD materials. Through this programme 0-3 and 3-8 years of ECD education will be provided to the poor and deserving student. To carry out this programme successfully, willma (a Germen philanthropist), Yasmin Karim( a development Specialist belonging to Shimshal), Late Bakhtawar Shah( first president of NAWDO) and Haji Ghulam Karim a social activist played vital role.
One of the volunteers Mr. Amjad Karim, whose contribution can not be ignored by the masses of shimshal has been an integral part of this organization since the time of his college life. Amjad has been working in the development process of establishing NAWDO and devoted his time and knowledge for the betterment of the marginalized community. After completion of his education he has been recently appointed as managing director of the organization, keeping in view his tireless efforts for establishment and putting the school on the way to progress. His service is admired my the whole community of Shimshal and he is known as a role model for the young generation, who has taught the young generation that how the young generation can play a vital role in the development of their area.
Another project related to health was started in 2007, costing about 95000 Euro, which is currently under construction. This will be the first community health center constructed by the community itself ever in Gojal. The community led health center will be fully equipped with medical facilities. Three nurses have been already trained to serve in the health center and further staff will be inducted and trained as per need. In the desired health center, all minor diseases will be dealt free of cost, while currently, for such minor diseases people spend a lot of money by travelling to Hunza. After starting of the health center, the community members will be able to save the money that they spend on traveling to Hunza. The most common problem is delivery cases, because women travel from shimshal to Hunza through the dangerous jumpy road. Such cases will also be handled in the desired health center that would be helpful for women of the area to easily access health facilities and avoid long journeys.
This project is a team work led by volunteers Aliza, Hosth and Hushi from Germany representatives of the project in Germany, Asad Karim( tourist Guide and social worker), Ashraf Karim(NGO employee and project coordinator) from Shimshal.
Shimshal trust is another organization based in Newziland initiated by the volunteer teachers from Newziland, who have given their services in shimshal a few years before. This organization provides the students and teachers from shimshal with scholarship nationally as well internationally. This project is led by Pamela Hanson(Newziland) and Lenat from England. Utilizing the
scholarships from Shimshal Trust, many students have been helped in their studies and teachers have been trained in the renowned universities of Pakistan as well as in Newziland.
The developmental work in Shimshal is evident that our communities have the guts to improve their socio-economic condition without depending on the government and NGOs but it needs courage, realization of our responsibilities in our respective societies and enthusiasm to work voluntarily.