Sunday, October 23, 2005

For crying out loud!

This is an email I sent out to all the folks I know abroad who I am hoping will extend a helping hand in some way or the other. It is sort of a plea and also an explanation of what we have done and plan to do.

Dear Everyone,

I hope this email finds you all in the best of health and spirits. Unfortunately, this is not an email bearing good news, but it does carry positive opportunities depending upon your reaction.

As you all may be aware, Pakistan suffered a devastating earthquake just a week and a half ago (Saturday October 8th, 2005 - 9:52 AM) which lasted 6 minutes, and those 6 minutes have cost many unfortunate people their lives, their homes, their families and many other things that are / were meaningful.

An estimated 60,000 people are dead and the death toll is expected to exceed 100,000 by weeks end as many of the unreachable, yet affected areas are now slowly being opened up thanks to the machinery available to the army. Millions, literally millions, are homeless and have suffered tremendous losses.

A few major towns, such as Balakot, Bagh and Batagram, are near 100% devastation, with nearly majority of the people either dead or severely injured in these regions.

I have been working very closely to these areas with some friends who all got together Sunday, 1 day after the earthquake, at a friends house to figure out how we could help out. At that time, some 10,000 people were already believed to possibly be dead. That day, within about 6 hours, we were able to collect about 2 million rupees in cash donations, along with about 15 million rupees worth of goods and supplies in the form of food, shelter, clothing and blankets that we filled up about 10 large lorry / trucks with and took with us in a 13 vehicle convoy to two areas in the vicinity of Mansehra. The two towns we provided relief to were Balakot (2 km from the epicenter) and Garri Habibullah. Both these areas are very badly affected, the former is almost non-existent. I have attached a few pictures of the various things we have seen and continue to see as long as we have the strength and ability to keep on helping in any way.

Some of the pictures of the apartment show Margalla towers, the apartment building that collapsed in Islamabad. The portion you see in the distance that is standing lost three sections on its left, right and front that collapsed straight down. Another picture with many people over the narrow passage is the way out of Balakot, the masses of people coming n and going out. This is barely a fraction of what it really is like.

Since that Sunday, my friends and I, most of whom are with the Islamabad Rugby Football Club, have been thinking and constantly reinventing ways of continuing our contributions. We are hosting a Charity Rugby Match next Sunday in F-10/4 (for those of you in Islamabad) and tickets are Rs. 100/- only and are going towards either the Presidents Fund, Edhi Charity or Private NGO's or groups such as ours. If interested in buying, please contact Andre at +92-333-5656-555.

We have devised a long term strategy also, where we will be collecting funds and putting them into an account so that we can target certain specific villages that are very remote and help them rebuild their villages. We have corroborated our efforts with various groups that are doing what they do best and providing us with information that helps us do what we do best. We are coordinating a lot of relief efforts, providing information on what is going on in what town/village/city and what is needed. It is very arduous and challenging, but when you know you are helping people who are homeless and almost happier dead, you feel very satisfied and look forward to doing more.

We are working with groups such as NRSP, RSPN, Quake Scouts among others that are private such as ours. We do not wish for any publicity, other than what others can do to help us do what we need to do. We can be identified as the Relief Youth Group Islamabad (RYGI) and will appreciate any help that can be sent to Pakistan. We are in dire need of shelter in the form of tents. We are trying to find ways to help grow our network so that communication of needs are better between private groups.

I have a blog where I am trying to regularly post information, updates and pictures of the affected regions so that people may have a good idea of what is going on from a first person's perspective (i.e. me). You can visit it, get any information and use it as a portal to reach other informative websites such as South Asia Quake Help among others. Http://Zohare.blogspot.com.

If you are wondering how you can help, donations are always the quickest and easiest way of helping. For those who have PAYPAL accounts, you can donate directly through my blog - there is a PAYPAL donate logo on the left half way below the menu. Just click it and enter the amount you wish to donate. As for sending things this way or organizing things to be sent, we need waterproof and insulated tents mostly. If interested, contact me and I will provide you with a comprehensive list of things that are needed most. Otherwise, there are long-term plans that we are devising and are underway for redeveloping of the affected areas. Please remember, this is not an invitation for contractors to cash in on our devastation.

Most of the people affected live in the northern areas, which are now beginning to get very cold due to weather changes in the last few days. It snowed just two days ago and rained heavily with hailstorms occurring often. The weather is beginning to make the rescue and relief effort very difficult, but thinking of the conditions the people are in who need help keep us going.

If you would like to help, feel free to email me or call and we can arrange something. If any of you know Bob Geldof and can get me to talk to him about arranging some high-level awareness campaign that can go hand in hand with MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY, that would be outstanding!

We realize that this is not a 1 month issue, this will take a lot of time to get people back on their own feet, but the bottom line is to help them to help themselves - make them self-sufficient and not dependent on aid. If we raise enough awareness globally, we may be able to organize the rescue effort more effectively and efficiently.

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