Sharqia Neighborhood celebrates its success

18 September 2008

Sharqia neighborhood celebrates its success

August 26, 2008 will be a memorable day for Sharqia neighborhood residents. On that day, the community celebrated two events: the successful completion of a neighborhood project to upgrade their “Safe Street Access for Students to Public Schools” and a Traffic Safety Awareness Day. H.E. Dr. Bilal Bashir, the Deputy Chief Commissioner for the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA), officially opened the street crossing. Citizens of the Sharqia neighborhood, Aqaba officials, and citizens from other Aqaba neighborhoods participated in the ceremony and the activities of the Awareness Day. The USAID –funded ACED Program works with ASEZA's Local Community Development Directorate (LCDD) to support the Neighborhood Development Activity (NDA) using a participatory methodology to encourage neighborhood members to mobilize their human, financial and other resources and address their most pressing needs. One of the first steps taken in Sharqia neighborhood was for the citizens to discuss their primary concerns and to establish a Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) composed of active residents to represent the neighborhood. he NET members have held regular weekly meetings facilitated by the NDA partners in order to analyze the situation and needs of the neighborhood, identify potential projects, and follow-up through project implementation. In March and April, the NET created and discussed a Neighborhood Asset Map, wrote a Vision for their Neighborhood, developed project criteria, and brainstormed and ranked potential projects. In April, they conducted a priority project verification survey in the neighborhood to determine which of the top three projects their neighbors felt was most urgent. Of the 586 citizens participating in the survey, 24 2 (41%) voted for the highest scoring project: Creating Safe Access for Students to Public Schools.

The NET worked with ASEZA engineers to design the project and then to follow-up with contactors and complete the street cross project. The NET also mobilized community resources to contribute to the project and created a plan for the Traffic Safety Awareness Day. Community contributions included printed materials, donations of project materials, equipment donations from ASEZA, neighborhood residents providing project labor, and employees of two neighborhood restaurants providing additional project labor.

In his speech, Dr Bashir, the Deputy Chief Commissioner for ASEZA, congratulated community members on this success and mentioned that “the Neighborhood Development Activity is a pioneer program conducted for the first time in the Aqaba Special Economic Zone with the goals of increasing citizens’ participation in decision making, developing local residents’ skills and abilities to benefit from the increasing opportunities in the ASEZ.”

The experience of Sharqia Neighborhood demonstrates what can be accomplished when a community, however small, works together. With this first project completed, the Neighborhood has gained more than just, a Safe Street Crossing and a Traffic Safety Awareness Day, but has experienced first-hand the organization and community mobilization efforts necessary to overcome local challenges. A Sharqia resident and parent of a school student expressed his approval, saying, “At first I was skeptical that the NET would succeeded, but now the entire neighborhood and I are happy about the results of this project and we are looking forward to continuing the process of improving our neighborhood."