Site Selection: An area between the 2 Dalit (poor, landless laborers) villages of Lenin Nagar and Periyar Nagar, located adjacent to the backwater in Cuddalore, was selected as an appropriate site to provide the community center. These villages, while they did not sustain loss of life due to the tsunami, have suffered loss of livelihood due to salt water flooding of leased farms. The tsunami was responsible for loss of their crops, which were due for harvesting. These villagers were not handed much retribution from the government or by the other NGO’s that have been working in this region post tsunami. The project site for the Community Center has been purchased and provided by the community. The area of the site is 1250 S.F.
Project Outcome: The project outcome involved the building of a community center. Using the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) method, Architecture For Humanity and LEAD assisted the community in identifying their needs, evaluating the grants available, and creating a program for design. Architecture For Humanity and LEAD will develop the design based upon the results of the PRA. LEAD engineered and constructed the building.
The community requested that the proposed community center have a multipurpose hall, which also serves as a tuition center and a Balwadi (a children’s day care center), a Balwadi kitchen, an outdoor play area for the children, an exercise area of the youth, a women’s office, a training room housing a few computers, a library, a storage area for tools, and toilets and shower areas. The community center serves as a shelter for the villagers during extreme weather, when their mud and thatch houses prove inadequate.
The community participated in the construction of this project. Elements of the community center, such as mud boundary walls, palm fences, corridors with thatch roofs were built by the community in their traditional methods so as to foster an ownership of the community center, to celebrate their local building traditions, and to ensure communal maintenance.
LEAD, in addition to building the project, continues its relationship with the community by creating women’s groups and micro lending programs. The women will be placed in charge of the community center.
Note: The Dalit communities of Peiyar Nagar and Lenin Nagar depend upon the Vanniar (upper cast) people of Thiagavalli village. The Dalit people of these communties have no pubic buildings such as a school building, a village temple, a childrens day care center. At this point they don't have organized women's sangams (groups). The community center project will be the first place that they can gather in.