Pakistan House Potsdam Moves On


After almost ten years of honorary work in the Pakistan House Potsdam, this phase is now coming to an end. The Pakistan House Potsdam was a starting point for foreign project workers, guests and visitors as well as for volunteers and the interested public. The active and non-selfish initiation and support of real self-help projects, support for income generating measures for the rural population, specially women, based upon the traditional culture were not beautiful words but reality; The support for the implementation of environment-friendly techniques in the rural areas was carried out through on-site lectures, in the NGO’s and educational institutions, through experimental workshops and product manufacturing and local sales. The idea, to operate independent of the central technical infra-structure (electricity), was demonstrated in practice and shown, that not only lighting, but also other usages, like charging a cell-phone battery etc. are possible. By activating volunteers outside of the project and generating interest of foreigners in the project countries, a sort of “soft” tourism was created. The PHP provided valuable help in the realization of such ideas.
The closure of Pakistan House Potsdam, the existence of which could only be successful through volunteers, does not mean an end to the work, but a further development, because the basis has been created, the people in the NGO’s have been trained and they are operating more or less rather independently since quite a long time.

History

The DGFK, which initiated and supported cultural-development projects is functioning as the organizational basis since 1973. As a further step, a gallery was opened as a place for events, followed by a publishing house, Audio and Video studio, whereas the scientific technical work was carried out by a small institute. Due to technological developments in communication and information, we were able to make presentations not only in Berlin, but also outside the West-Germany of that time. The DGFK opened to foreign project work practically in 1990, which reached a new level with the Pakistan project and led to the establishment of the Pakistan House Potsdam - without the initiators acting in the usual strategic form.

Beginnings of the Pakistan House Potsdam

In 1997, Bonn was still the federal capital, an idea formed under the auspices of the German-Pakistan Forum and the Embassy of Pakistan for establishing an Honorary Consulate for the new (eastern) provinces. Potsdam, the provincial capital of the province of Brandenburg, appeared to be good location, also due to its nearness to Berlin, which was to become the federal capital.

From Honorary-Consulate to Pakistan House with the “Punjab-Door”

The preparations for transfer began in 1999.The work in the “Project House“ was taken up in 2000 and, since no reaction was forthcoming from the Pakistan side, the Pakistan House Potsdam was inaugurated in 2001 by Pakistani ambassador at that time.

Through the EXPO2000 exposition, the centre received a 250 years old wooden door from the Punjab, which is installed in the yard of the Pakistan House Potsdam and serves since inauguration as an attractive backdrop for visitors and guests of all types while at the same time creating a special atmosphere.
As the idea of the Pakistani village development project expanded, other projects were also processed from here for Cameroun, Columbia, Iceland etc. The work consisted of preparing honorary workers and volunteers for deployment in the projects, as well as supplementary discussions about improvement in the work and information for the interested public. Lectures were delivered here but also at other places. The nearness to the embassy made a good co-operation possible, - a large number of Pakistani visitors to Potsdam found hospitality here at a cup of tea: Ministers, Ambassadors, Officers of various foundations, members of the military academy, journalists, students, etc. found it to be a comfortable place not only on the annual Pakistan-Day. Whenever the Pakistan Embassy arranged a cultural presentation, the PHP was always its partner (for example House of Cultures of the World, Import-Shop, Q-Damm Mile, Festival of Nations).

From Pakistan into the World

Due to very different time zones in the project countries ((Pakistan 3-4 hours till Columbia 6-7 hours) the office timings extended from 6-o-clock in the morning to mid-night, which were attended by volunteers. This led soon to limiting the visitors traffic to agreed timings but intensive dealing. Guests from Australia and New-Zeeland, from Japan, India, of-course from Pakistan, Israel, from Europe (including Iceland), various African and American countries found a home here in the beautiful old city of Potsdam, near to the Brandenburger Tor and the Castle Park of Sansouci.

The Future is in the Rural Areas

A documentary film festival was initiated in the old Stadthaus in 2005 with the help of a volunteer Globians. The Future is in the Rural Areas, was the main theme, which indicated that the projects were and are carried out in the rural areas. The work which had originally begun in the “Developing Countries” now expanded in a curve to places like Israel’s Negev-Desert and to Iceland’s Westfjorden and into Brandenburg, so that from 2007 training also for selected locals was offered Tuesdays till Fridays from 8 till 12-o-clock.

Pakistan House Potsdam as a Basis for External Activities

Since 1999 the Pakistan House Potsdam has also been a basis for events for a certain segment of population. Although the Pakistani village project was projected strongly in the EXPO2000 exposition in Hannover due its selection among the world-wide projects, but gradually other projects with their handicrafts found their way to museums: Ethnological Museum Dahlem, Rautenstrauch-Jost-Museum in Cologne, Voelkerkundemuseum in Hamburg, Linden-Museum in Stuttgart, Grassi-Museum in Leipzig, Voelkerkundemuseum in Vienna.

An important aspect in the project work was the development of income generating measures for the participants in the project countries. Connected to the activities from the art promotion period of the 80’s was a large and successful exhibition of an artist from the Negev.

Training of Foreign Project-Participants

Over the years, members of the project NGO’s were offered training in special training sessions, the availability of boarding and lodging facilities made it possible to react quickly, -all this was possible only with the selfless support of one helper as well as the consistent efforts of the head-volunteer Dr Senta Siller.

Archive-Work

Over 35 years of cultural work is not important, but the fact that it was carried out with private resources. Once young volunteers have become older over the years and it is often asked in e-mails, whether the long, partly very tiresome efforts can be properly documented at-least in an archive. Since such work can also be done only on an honorary basis, the prospects are not gloomy but it can only be done step by step. The beginning here has already been made and it was relatively easy because the DGFK has already been using the Internet facility since 1995. DGFK-News, Indus, Sanagar. Rio Magdalena, Hekla - these periodicals appear quarterly and they are bound into the archive. Similarly and as far as available, the descriptions in the Berliner Kunstblatt and other publications, so that one can gather that the basis for a certain form of cultural work has been accomplished.

Goodbye to Pakistan House Potsdam – it is another step in the life of a project and not its end.

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