Social centers that are also known as social development centers (SDCs) aim at helping those people who live in underserved neighborhoods. The core idea of these centers is to promote the social sustainability of families and young people, in particular. A range of specialized programs developed by social centers strives to enhance the lives of the community members.
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The first SDC was established in England in the 1800s (“Settlements and Neighborhood Centers”). The population of cities was increasingly growing and required some efforts to provide citizens with an adequate amount and quality of social services. Initially, these social centers focused on such issues as educational and recreational needs as well as personal and neighborhood services. Nowadays organizations taking care of underserved neighborhoods also pay attention to refugees, business services, children’s development, environment, and several others each of which depends on the needs of a certain community. In the Middle East, a social center was established in Qatar in 2005 (“The Social Development Center”). Sponsored by ExxonMobil Qatar, it initiated the First Step Program to help adolescents and adults to accomplish professional growth. Besides, family well-being was taken into account in the context of national sustainability and promotion of career opportunities for future generations.
SDCs focus on shaping a better life for the community members by providing various opportunities for jobs, education, economy, and life in general. Expressing their attitudes and concerns, people may work as volunteers in creating programs. In particular, they may take part in both developing and implementing the programs and also suggest their viewpoints through official websites. At the same time, SDCs can significantly help government spending by contributing to the development of the social sector. For example, the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) located in St. Paul, Minnesota trained 4,690 entrepreneurs, provided 56,000 hours of coaching, and created 2, 200 jobs in the neighborhood area in 2016 (“Our Impact”).
As for the financial contribution, it is possible to point out that NDC returned $ 46 million in the community by rent, payroll, business expenses, taxes, and other economic means (“Our Impact”). These statistics clearly show that NDC works in collaboration with the government and attempts to reach the same goals. Another example that can be noted concerns Qatar SDC the Gala Dinner of which allowed receiving QR 23,950,000 (“Social Development Center Raise QR23 Million for Entrepreneurial Programmes”). Along with such prominent government representatives as HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and HH Sheikha Moza bin Nasser, the evening gathered ministers and other public persons.
Speaking of Qatar SDC, it is essential to emphasize that this social center is one of the most active and successful ones worldwide. For instance, the Tarahom project initiated during the Holy Month Ramadan in 2013 helped 22,109 indigent families that suffered from poverty, natural disasters, or other hardships (“The Social Development Center”). During this project, Qatar Foundation also collaborated with Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) and Qatar Red Crescent to reveal those families that needed support. Approximately 200 volunteers were taking part in Tarahom, implementing the project, and making their community life more sustainable.
One more project run by Qatar SDC is related to environmental protection so that the community members can live a balanced life. The issues of the environmental pollution and ways to preserve Qatar’s beautiful nature that is considered as Allah’s creation were discussed on Religion and the Environment conference in 2013 (“The Social Development Center”). Seeing the alarming international statistics, it was decided to control the use of natural resources of the country and reduce air-polluting manufacturing. Furthermore, the conference attendees agreed to take measures aimed at preserving productive lands to prevent its transformation into the desert. It is significant to state that the WISE Prize for Education is given to the most active members.
Among other challenges that SDCs try to address, there are refugees’ needs. For example, Karenni SDC that is located on the border of Thailand and Myanmar was created for Karenni young people. In particular, this social center offers a range of educational programs in such fields as human rights, environment, English, IT, management, and others (“What We Do”). The paramount goal explicitly stated by the organization is to engage young refugees to become advocates for peaceful social change by providing them with necessary instruments such as appropriate knowledge and skills. After completing the Basic Training Course (BTC), the students can apply for the Advanced Community Management Training Course (ACMTC) to work as leaders of the community (“What We Do”). The set of problems discussed within this organization also concerns water problems including the lack of drinking water and hot weather drought, domestic violence, ration reductions, the judicial system, and other relevant issues that are associated with the Karenni community.
The importance of the centers that were discussed earlier in this paper as well as of others located all over the world cannot be overestimated as they improve the everyday life of the community members, resolving their most complicated problems. Along with those positive points that were mentioned above, there are plenty of other success stories. For example, Klaw Reh, one of the alumni of Karenni SDC, states that “human rights, law, and democracy are really useful for me. I don’t want to see my community collapse. SDC School is very important for our future. SDC School saves our lives” (“Klaw Reh’s Story”). This statement illustrates that this young person who moved to SDC as a result of a fire that destroyed his home is aware of his rights and opportunities. After graduating from Karenni SDC, he wants to make a change in his community and serve society as an important activist. Even though no prizes are given to the members of this organization, they are full of desire to learn, improve their own lives, and benefit society.
The perspective goal that can be achieved in the future by SDCs is the complete revitalization of neighborhood areas. Promoting awareness in the community members along with the active life position, SDCs can help people achieve their personal and professional goals, thus enhancing their level of life satisfaction. It seems that currently SDCs successfully cope with problems that are encountered by the communities. In this regard, there is no need to consider alternatives for these centers.
In conclusion, it is essential to emphasize that SDCs can be found in any country and community as they perform the role of the social promoter. It was revealed that SDCs cover a great variety of social issues related to family, children, adolescents, environment, education, and innovation. At the same time, the focus and effectiveness of SDCs depend on a certain community, available resources, level of members’ awareness, and other peculiarities of the area.
“Klaw Reh’s Story.” Karenni Social Development Center, 2015, Web.
“Our Impact.” NDC, 2016, Web.
“Settlements and Neighborhood Centers.” VCU, 2016, Web.
“Social Development Center Raise QR23 Million for Entrepreneurial Programmes”. Marhaba, 14 March 2013, Web.
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“The Social Development Center”. Qatar Foundation, 2016, Web.
“What We Do.” Karenni Social Development Center, 2016, Web.