Yes, we can make a difference

As news of the foods came in I wondered what to do,"Beg" I was told and beg, I did. I sent out hundreds of texts, set up a camp and was left awestruck by the response.

Morial Shah August 13, 2010
If you think running a relief camp is a joke, think again. Do you wish away volunteers who pop up at every corner? Please, don’t. They are there for a reason.

Two weeks ago, I was spending what was a very boring afternoon with a jet-lagged aunt, who, for some odd reason was very worked up about the floods in Khyber-Pakhtukhwa. As news about the death toll poured in, and she started arranging for boats, I thought that, maybe - just maybe - something more tragic than the airplane crash had happened. However, as news poured in over the course of the week any remaining dregs of apprehension vanished. I called my aunt, National Commission for Human Development’s chairperson, to ask what I could do to help. “Beg,” she told me. And beg I did.

I sent out two hundred text messages, went  to the administrations of Agha’s, Forum, Macro and Clifton Cantonment Board to get permission to set up camps, called Naheed Khala’s driver’s friend to set up the tent, and called all my younger cousins to help as the NCHD staff was busy with relief efforts in the interior.

Here’s one piece of advice if you’re thinking of doing something similar: don’t rely too much on friends from places like Karachi Grammar School or Convent of Jesus and Mary. Take it from me; I learnt it the hard way. People who party and have fun with you aren’t the ones who will necessarily come to help you. They probably think that they will have to contribute handsomely for your cause.  But, your five year old cousin will definitely come to help and donate her pocket money for good measure.

Armed with a team of 10 teens and preteens (whose ages range between 6-14 years), I set about business. Although I was disappointed by most of my so-called friends, the response from strangers left me awestruck. Ordinary people, complete strangers, put money in our boxes and food and clothes for our collection drive.

Our money graph grew exponentially - we collected around forty-seven thousand on the first day, and after that there was no turning back.  A whopping Rs 109,000, Rs 139,000, Rs 200,600 and finally Rs 318,655 made their way to our bank account on the second, third, fourth, and fifth days respectively. Most of this money came in the form of coins and ten rupee notes, making every penny earned very precious. I think these five days taught me and all the kids just how valuable rupee coins can become when they add up. And if the money surprised us, the response in kind sent shock waves down our infrastructure – we collected so many things on our second day that our table broke! And in only two days, we were able to send our first truck to the Interior.

This morning, I saw my second truck off. And if all goes according to plan, I’ll be there to receive it when it reaches its destination. I hadn’t thought it would be possible to achieve so much in such little time: every fiber in my swollen feet screams gratitude to the kids who stood with me, sometimes for seven hours or more without taking any breaks for food or water and to all those people who donated in cash or kind.

So, if you’re planning on setting up a camp, here’s another thing to bear in mind - for all the arm chair cynics and drawing room critics, you’ll meet a lot of people, both young and old who will be willing to help with their time, effort and energy.  As I set off for the flood affected areas, one thing is pretty clear to a former cynic: there’s still hope for this country.

You can donate Rs10 to help affectees by texting ‘D’ to 2471. To learn more about how to help visit D for Donate
Morial Shah A student of International Politics and Security at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University She tweets at @MoruShah.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


sana batool | 13 years ago | Reply hey! i know the first step is the most important and difficult one to everything and it is a blessing of our nation to have people like you. dear friend, i also want to volunteer,how can i be of any service? plz do let me know.
Isfand | 13 years ago | Reply Keep it up!! God bless you.
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