Project gave people chance to rebuild self-esteem, find skills

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, 12:00am

Two years ago, there was nothing but ruins in Mianzhu, Sichuan. 'Everybody cried. Everybody lost somebody,' Dr David Pang Ding-jung, chairman of the SCMP Group, recalled on his visit to the city after the quake.

Stepping into the same village in March, he noticed the people's confidence is back. 'Nobody talks about the past. They talk about the future.'

Pang said the Homes for Hope initiative in aid of post-quake reconstruction was more than just building infrastructure. 'Giving them a house is not the ultimate aim of the project. It only serves as a starting point for improving their lives. In return for receiving funding for construction materials, to avoid misuse of funds, villagers have to follow an 18-step purchasing procedure,' he said.

Two of the steps included the requirement for villagers to check the prices of materials with two or more suppliers. Quality of the steel was to be assessed by a third party. This ensured the houses would be built with materials that were up to the desired quake-resistant standards. 'By applying the multistep approach, villagers also learnt how to execute a project with proper contracts and procedures,' he said.

'The discipline established in them has taught them how to work more efficiently and effectively in other areas in the future.

'Also, the local government and villagers had to contribute their money to ensure they took ownership in the project that Homes for Hope managed.

'While it's important for charities to give generously and to provide administrative assistance, we are also trying to establish a self-help and collaborative mentality as well as teach better practices to those that are on the receiving end. This builds their capabilities, confidence and also interaction as a community, and leads to a better environment for them to live in, in more ways than one.'