Andaman Discoveries Blog
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Leading from the Center
Phra Thong Community Center - A comprehensive facility that conveys the meaning of life in Ban Lion, and is uniting the community through a common purpose.
While a village had been built to replace the one lost in the tsunami, and the houses were occupied by those who had come to make a new life, something was missing. With no restaurants, markets, or other social venues, Ban Lion lacked a place for community members to come together – to share, to learn, and to enjoy. The center has become the heart of the village – creating opportunities, friendship, and, most importantly, hope.
In 2011, with the support of Planeterra, we were very busy with construction at the center:
• Renovation and restoration of rooms and structure
• Furniture and equipment for meeting area and museums
• Floor extension and aerial walkway between buildings
• Children’s room - library and study area
• Community displays - fishing life, Moken, murals, etc.
• Handicrafts room
• Flood Barriers and Benches
• Community Garden
• Community Kitchen
• Recycle Bins
• Orchid Conservation
• Youth Environmental Seminar
• Island-wide conservation meeting
Renovation and restoration
Major renovations were undertaken to create a new Center from previously dilapidated structures. An aerial walkway was built to connect the upper level of Center, creating an integrated museum area on the second story. To create the museums, internal walls were removed to allow a maximum amount of display space, and a new door was added.
On the ground floor, a brick entrance path was laid to prevent sand from entering the center, and a concrete floor and shade roof were built to create a shaded meeting area. Other renovations for the entire center included electrical wiring/lighting/outlets, refitting of bathrooms, adding doorknobs & locks, and rust protection for the railings.
The monsoon rain has been a threat to the center, and in past years many of the rooms were leaky and water damaged. In order to protect recently created museum rooms and village store, it was determined that south and west sides of the center required protection. Custom fit tarps made of heavy-duty plastic, with stitching and rope inserts along the edges, were ordered from Phuket. In addition, the staircase bottoms were covered with plywood to protect from gusting rain.
Utilizing a corner of the downstairs community room, community room, field staff created a children’s library an study area with a book shelf, cubby holes, mini tables, benches, chairs, and a large table. The area is used throughout the day by the young children of the village, and as an afternoon homework area for the school aged children.
After planning sessions with the community, they divided into groups responsible for painting island scenery and creating displays about the local way of life, including posters and a display of special shells and fishing gear. The engaging and educational conservation museum was created by Naucrates, who led the design, repainting, collating and building displays, and specimen presentation.
Handicraft room - Community shop
The members of the tie dye group successfully set up their new community shop. In the process the ladies created an inventory, set up display areas, and are also selling woven Moken baskets and souvenirs for the sea turtle project. The area just outside the shop is now used by the group for sewing and embroidering their products. Started in late 2009, the women’s tie-dye group is highly motivated. To jump start their business, we provided a grant for purchase of fabric, a full color catalogue, price sheet, and web page for the range of products the group makes. The tie-dye group was also in need of a stable stove for dyeing and a disposal area for the waste from the dying process. We built a drainage area that also serves as a compost pile to mulch the leaves and bark used for dying.
Activities at the Center - Island-wide conservation meeting
We organized a kick-off meeting on environmental issues to introduce seagrass and mangrove conservation activities. The goals were to promote the Community Center to explore collaboration on conservation issues with villagers not only in Ban Lion, but also other 2 villages on Koh Phratong, government, and the resort owners. 7 issues were identified involving rare animal species and ecosystems that need to be protected. 64 participants included: 30 from Lion village, 8 from Tha Pa Yoi and 13 from Thung Dap, 4 from government, 3 from private sector, and 7 project staff and researchers. Conclusion - people on the island want to work together on the issues, and will hold conservation meetings every three months, and will initiate seagrass monitoring in Lion and Tha Pa Yoi villages.
Activities at the Center - Seagrass monitoring
Monitored seagrass in fixed plots at established sites near Ban Lion, and added new plots to monitor recently established marine protected areas (MPAs) in 2 villages. Data shows generally low seagrass cover in all areas during rainy season. Developed and initiated a program of monitoring animals inside and outside the marine protected areas (MPAs) in two villages to show the effectiveness of MPAs, especially on conch and sea cucumber populations.
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