Focusing on local communities
Resilience and the ability of local communities to withstand a disaster has become a key policy issue. From mitigating the economic stress in a post COVID-19 world to the needs-based rehabilitation after man-made or natural disasters, capacities and resilience of local communities are substantial factors especially in societies where the central governmental structures are fragile.
Providing resources, infrastructure and professional skills to disadvantaged and vulnerable communities to prepare for and overcome disasters is one of the most important objective of Hungary Helps Program. We have entered the new decade with complex and interdependent global challenges. Challenges that further widen the existing forms of inequalities. For this reason, supporting isolated and marginalized communities is a more urgent mission than before. Hungary Helps Agency – guided by the universal defense of human dignity and the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, independence – is engaged therefore at designing our humanitarian-development projects directly, at the levels of local communities.
Community organizations play a critical role when a disaster strikes. They can respond quickly, allocate resources equitably, and are highly sensitive to local needs. They also play an essential role in providing services, supporting its members by responding to rapidly changing conditions. This calls us to follow a strong community-oriented model in our aid implementation, where the understanding of community-needs and the coordinated implementation of aid policies generate more effective and sustainable protection outcomes, especially in case of communities with ethnic, or religious minority background.
Hungary Helps Program focuses to resilience-building both in case of communities’ pre-event vulnerability to disaster and their adaptive capacity to recover from crises. Our program is currently present in 45 countries worldwide with over 170 projects – most of them have been planned or implemented by local communities, directly contributing to the achievement of thirteen of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by the United Nations. As Hungary Helps Program maintains a close and special connection with religious and faith-based organizations, our community-based model is further advanced by representatives of churches, denominations, which is an especially important factor of security, stability and cohesion in the Middle Eastern and in Sub-Saharan countries.
An illustrious example of Hungary Helps Program’s commitment to community resilience-building is the complex renovation of a ruined monastery in Aintoura (Lebanon). Restoring the old stones in form of a community cultural center with educational activities, cultural festivals of Aramaic language, gastronomy, handcraft and music; it is not just preserves the local identity but also reinforces the local economic conditions on the long run. Such community support is giving an opportunity for gatherings and living the spiritual identity, which is essential for the individual recovery and social rehabilitation.
In Kosovo, together with Jahjaga Foundation, Hungary Helps Program supports the Municipality of Kamenica in creating a youth center that is being built to meet the social needs of the local youngsters with different ethnic backgrounds. The Centre “Fanar” (Lighthouse) includes community places such as a theatre, a gallery, a library and room for workshops and other community activities – all this helps to organize the local youngsters into a vibrant, colorful and resilient community.
Kenya is another country where focus on local community protection is very strong. While the country is challenged by climatic, demographic and economic tensions, massive migration from the countryside to the outskirts of the major cities cuts the traditional community networks. For this reason, Hungary Helps Program started its Kenyan projects parallel in the overcrowded slums of Nairobi and in the far and remote countryside. In both areas, projects are targeting the resilience-building of fragile communities. Kangemi is one of the overcrowded slums of the Kenyan capital where hundreds of thousand live in extreme poverty. Together with the local Catholic Parish of Saint Joseph the Worker, Hungary Helps started a project to reach people in the deepest, forgotten distress. Establishing a vocational training center with quality education and vocational skills training, the project not just provides working opportunity for the youth of the slum, but helps them to be integrated in a real community.
Thanks to this assistance, young people from the most vulnerable age groups have a unique opportunity to break out the poverty circle, find a decent work, livelihood and establish durable community networks. Parallel to this, Hungary Helps Program started community-led projects in the Northern parts of Kenya, where the main challenge is the lacking services complemented with sudden and excessively negative effect of climate change. Bolstering community resilience in the context of health security represents here an important intersection of emergency response, public health and community developments, with emphasis on preventive care, health promotion, and community capacity-building. Together with Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT), a membership organization led by 39 community conservancies in northern and coastal Kenya, Hungary Helps Program developed a rural clinic, constructing its staff accommodation block and laboratory for a permanent medical presence, as well as equipping its maternity block. All this had increased the capacities of the communal health care, giving easy access to medical services about 10 000 people annually.
Since 2020, Hungary Helps Program also supports community-initiated projects in Ethiopia, where conflicts fueled by interethnic and religious tensions often lead to widespread instability. Here, community education is one of the most important way of strengthening local peace structures. Together with Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Hungary supports the renovation and development of rural school infrastructure in the isolated villages of Oromia and Wollega provinces. The project supports the complete renovation and extension of old school buildings. This modernization enables the communities to find a better access to quality education. Beyond the classroom education, the new school buildings will serve as platforms of peace-support activities such as awareness programs, workshops, and conference, advancing the peaceful coexistence of different religion and ethnic communities. Another successful project in Ethiopia targets the reconciliation of Anuak and Nuer people in Gambella province through equally administered education and agricultural developments.
Overall, the Hungary Helps Program is committed to helping and contributing to projects around the world that aim to support entire communities and give them the opportunity to rebuild their lives after wars and disasters. The humanitarian and rehabilitation projects implemented with Hungarian assistance over the past years show that the direct and community-based Hungarian humanitarian model works. Developing the infrastructure or creating jobs following community ideas and initiatives will enable the recipients to feel the projects as their own, which is also a guarantee for sustainability and careful resource management. As a result, we believe that strong and resilient communities are the basics of social resilience and economic prosperity of the whole nation. The Hungary Helps Program is engaged in this mission and what’s more, it has already made a difference.