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Friday, August 20, 2010

"I've lost everything in the flood," Shahnawaz Deya

Shahnawaz Deya, 47, a farmer, has lost his home, cattle and crops during the recent floods in Pakistan. He belongs to Thul - a village in the interior Sindh and is sheltering in the camp since the last 5 days with his entire family – wife and 4 daughters. We met him at a medical camp in Qasimabad organized by Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO) in collaboration with the Government Police and SPARC.

“I’ve lost every thing in the flood,” he said gloomily. “Things were fine when I left for Fajr prayers. At around 8.00 am water gushed into my house and its level kept rising; I had no choice but to leave. This camp is the only shelter my family and I have.”

His wife, Ammat Bibi is equally distressed. With tearful eyes she told us, “My eldest daughter was to get married this December. We had long saved for her dowry, but now it’s all destroyed. Besides, my youngest daughter has developed acute malaria. We’re lucky they’re providing us timely free medical assistance here, otherwise she would’ve died.” Tears began rolling down her cheeks.




SPO is a local NGO and is partnering with the British Council to deliver Active Citizens workshops in Hyderabad. It has engaged a large number of young people in the workshops - many of whom are volunteering at this medical camp and participating in fund raising.

We met with Sheraz Chandio, SPO’s representative, he informed us they’ve purchased more than 50,000 medicines ever since the camp’s set up and 4 doctors are on duty 24/7. “We’re trying our best to provide people as many facilities as possible. We’re providing them food, clothes and medicines. We’re also trying to pump water out of houses so these people could return.”


Taking a look around the camp, we noticed many morose faces and defeated souls – each with a heart-breaking story to tell. No one had even anticipated that a sudden calamity would change their lives forever. Sons have died, daughters are missing families lost, homes gone and the land’s covered with stagnant water as far as you can see.

It’s time we show solidarity and help our brothers and sisters – “generously”. Give alms-donate food, clothes, shoes, spare a handful of flour next time you make Chapatis – perhaps you’d save some one from starving.

The recent floods in Pakistan

Pakistan has been hit by the most catastrophic floods in its history and conditions are getting worse by the minute. Large areas of Khyber Pakhtonkhuwa, Southern Punjab and Sindh have been destroyed. Millions have lost their loved ones, homes, crops and are left with nothing but the clothes on their back and their lives.

In such conditions how can we, the youth of the country remain quiet? With one fifth of the nation desolate and destroyed, it is up to us to take up the challenge of giving our people hope again. We, The Emerging Light Group, have been working in Multan in aid of the flood victims since August 7, 2010. We formed this group after attending the “Active Citizens Workshop” earlier this year. The workshop made us realize that we –the youth- has to work for the welfare of our communities and bring a change.



We started by going door to door to raise funds; collecting money, medicines, clothes and ration i.e. flour, ghee, surf, biscuits, soaps, match sticks and milk. Through the help of generous supporters, we were able to raise 2.5 lakh rupees and purchased additional medicines and edibles.

On 14 August, our Independence Day, we loaded the edibles (500 food packets) in a truck and set off to Muzaffergarh, Baseera and Sanawan.

What we saw there shook us to the core.

Acres of crops were destroyed, the flood water was 8 to10 feet high and people were forced to abandon their homes, half submerged in water. Children were crying in hunger, the old were sick and the women were desperately trying to save as many of their household items as possible. Their condition brought tears to our eyes.



Once we found a dry spot, we parked and began distributing the food packets amongst the people. Men, women and children rushed towards us appealing for help, some were begging and shouting, some were weeping, while others were praying to God. We distributed all the food packets we had, but felt awful for turning away those who came late after the stock was finished.

Our work, though, is not nearly done; the scenes we saw have been etched in our minds forever. My team and I were disturbed to see our brothers and sisters struggling to survive this colossal catastrophe and we want to help them as much as we can. So we are planning another trip to Muzzaffergarh with 1000 food packets this weekend.

I pray for strength, hope and for these hardships to ease soon. Till then we – The Active Citizens - will do whatever we can, using all our resources to aid our fellow countrymen.



By Farhan Siddiqui and Zoya Khan

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I’m helping, are you?

Hey, I’m Faisal Idress from Jagoo Pakistan. Jagoo Pakistan is a youth group based in Multan and we work for the welfare of our local communities.



You know our country’s hit by the worst floods ever. We’ve established medical and rehabilitation camps at Muzzafargrah, Charsaddah and Rajanpur to help the flood victims. The situation isn’t very good, I’m afraid.

These desolate people are going through extreme hard times. I was introduced to a woman who has lost her husband and two daughters in the flood. She’s sheltering in our camps with nine daughters – all relatively young.

“How will I take care of nine daughters alone? I’m not even educated to earn my living,” she said, tears flowing down her cheeks.






I met young girls who hadn’t eaten for days, their mothers were missing and had no where to go. We saved three such girls and have asked Edhi to take care of them until we find their mothers.

We’re arranging food, clothes and water for the victims. Cooking food is tough, but it gives me immense comfort to know I’m saving some one from starving.






We need to wake up, we need to unite and we need to take care of our country before it’s too late. Flood victims need our help, if you can’t donate money, food and clothes – you can at least remember them in your prayers.
Even that would be a great help from you!






STEP establishs a Support Centre for Flood Victims

Persons with disabilities are the last to be rescued in any disaster, and you know that disasters lead to disability. Problems of the disabled people during disaster situations deserve a prominent place in the humanitarian work. Reduced mobility means lesser visibility, lesser access and lesser voice. In simple language - this means lesser survival chances.

The Special Talent Exchange Programme (STEP www.step.org.pk) has established an Information and Support Centre for the flood affected people across Pakistan.

The Support Centre will:

 Identify disabled people in the flood affected areas
 Ensure accessibility of sanitation and food distribution in shelters
 Re-linking displaced disabled persons with their families

This Information Support Centre is working 24/7.

Please contact STEP for any information about flood victims on the following addresses:

Telephone: +92-51-2111331

SMS (Text): +92-(0)308-5004569

E-mail: office@step.org.pk

Your response in any form would be of high value!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm trying to help the victims - Saad Hussain


Hi, my name is Saad Hussain (the guy with a beard and glasses) and I'm a member of "The Maximizers" - a youth group from Karachi. Here's my team - in the picture.

I've been associated with the Active Citizens Programme since January 2010. You know the recent floods have played havoc with our country; we - The Active Citizens - trying to help our fellow citizens as much as we can.


We've started a campaign through which we're collecting food items, clothes, shoes and money for the flood victims. We haven't camped along the road side like others - instead, we started by asking our friends and family to give alms for these desolate people.

We also began a chain of mobile messages - forwarding it to all our contacts and requesting them to forward it further. With every one's help and support, we've been able to raise Rs 25,000/- so far.

We're collecting commodities at various collection points. Collection points are my team members' houses. Each team member is working in his/her vicinity to collect relief items and accumulates them in his/her house. When we've gathered sufficient relief items - items we know will help at least 50 stranded families survive through the entire month of Holy Ramadan - we'll transport them to the flood hit areas.

But, a major problem was - how to get these good across the areas that are most affected by the flood? This was "a" challenge. We weren't comfortable handing our items to some NGO which wouldn't even give us records of where our alms have gone? We wanted authenticity and liability.

We searched for a reliable source and found the "World Food Programme Agency"- a relief providing body in Pakistan. We approached them because, we felt, they were genuine. They were kind enough to agree to take our items to the flood stricken areas.

Till now, we've collected relief items that will serve at least 30 families through out Ramadan. The World Food Programme representatives have asked us to hand them these items on coming Saturday, August 21, 2010.

We're looking forward to Saturday, frankly. We're excited and happy that we're playing our part as Active Citizens for the welfare of our fellow citizens. Thanks to the British Council for transforming us into Active Citizens!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We are going to pursue our dreams….

Life for disabled people is, indeed, tough. They have limited access in the buildings, on the roads, in shops/markets, at jobs - hence things aren’t easy for them – hold on, we sympathise with them, feel bad and talk about their issues, but we don’t really actually “do” some thing for them, do we?

Active Citizens Pakistan organised a workshop in Quetta and after that, a group of young people undertook the task of dissolving some challenges – if not all - that people with disability face every day.

A youth group called “DOST” led by Faris Mughal, launched a campaign to spread awareness about the issues of disabled people. He organised a “peace walk” which made people realise that handicapped people too, exist in the society, and have the rights to participate in community matters.



“Disability is not a curse. We’re a part of this society too, and have all the rights to make our voices heard. People should treat us like any other normal individual – so what if we’re on wheel chair or have sight impairments - we shouldn’t be pitied, instead we should be encouraged and appreciated,” said Faris Mughal, who has a disability himself. He looked very passionate and was trying his level best to bring a change in the way people think about invalids.

Another purpose of this walk was to provoke the masses to make their houses, offices, markets, shops and even mosques disabled friendly. Faris narrated that majority of shop keepers don’t pay the same level of attention to disabled people, as they do to those who’re “normal”. At times, the shopkeepers behaved offensively and shrugged them off.

He divulged, “After the peace walk, I’ve noticed a change in the way people think about us. They don’t signal us off any more; instead, I’ve seen that they are paying us more attention. They listen to us and pay heed to our needs. They’ve stopped using offensive terms too.”


Faris and the “DOST” group have been successful in securing 11% seats in Balochistan Assembly. This has been the group’s greatest achievement so far. They are planning to introduce educational and employment reforms for disabled people which is going to ease their lives, a lot.

“We’re very happy on this success! I’m one of the 11% members who are representing disabled people in the assembly. I’ll try my best to make the educational institutes, shopping places and roads disabled friendly. I’ll show that invalids are as good workers as normal people and they shouldn’t be slashed from the working class,” Faris informed about his future plans, hoping that doors of success will open for the handicapped people.

We wish Faris and DOST group all the best for their efforts! They’re a ray of hope and role models for all the disabled people across this country.