In an effort to reach out to the millions of Pakistanis devastated by unprecedented flooding co-founders of the Pakistani Students’ Alliance (PSA) Ali Chaudhry ’12 and Zuleikha Hester ’11 are spearheading campus efforts to raise money for the relief. Simultaneously, Chaudhry and Hester are confronting a lack of awareness of the issue and want the campus campaign to raise both funds and understanding of the disaster’s magnitude.
An initial campus-wide meeting earlier this week. According to Chaudhry, Pakistan is not getting nearly as much aid as the country needs. The distribution of food, shelter, and medical support is made difficult by continued flooding.
“It’s getting worse every day,” Chaudhry said. “The floods are still going on right now. Some of the waters have receded in some places, but have only grown in others. It’s just creating a path of destruction. Twenty million people are without shelter and in danger, and we need to help those people.”
The two organized a preliminary brainstorming meeting on Sunday. While dozens of ideas were suggested at the meeting, one apparent concern expressed was that students were also unaware of the continuing impact of the floods.
“We hope to dispel some of the preconceived notions about Pakistan and the controversy surrounding the country,” Hester said. “We plan on having some speakers and events to discuss Pakistan and to get rid of some of the notions about it.”
The PSA has been working on fundraising initiatives since the summer and by Orientation week they had begun selling T-shirts in the Cardinal Technology Center, which are still available for purchase. All proceeds from these T-shirts will go directly toward flood relief efforts.
In addition to T-shirt sales, Hester, Chaudhry, and other students hope to organize a variety of programs over the year, including fraternity-sponsored concerts, guest or faculty lectures, events with Bon Appétit or Middletown restaurants, a Freeman Athletic Center ‘Displaced People’ Slumber Party, a CD made by campus groups, and dodge ball tournaments with faculty and students.
The PSA will only donate to the American Red Cross, Oxfam, and Islamic Relief, all of which are NGOs that have been vetted by the United States. According to Hester, these large organizations were chosen because they are established on the ground in Pakistan and have the resources to get aid to Pakistanis.
Hester has received e-mails from faculty and the administration saying they fully support this effort and want to get involved. The PSA also hopes to collaborate with other schools for larger, more effective fundraisers. Chaudhry would even like to create a fundraising model for other schools.
“We plan on having multiple events over the year,” Hester said. “It’s comparable to the situation in Haiti where money will be needed for years and years, and we also want to bring the type of awareness to this campus that Haiti had.”
Chaudhry agrees that the fight against terrorism, as well as the allegations of corruption in the government, are contributing to the lack of international support. He believes that the media only portrays a certain side of Pakistan that does not represent Pakistanis in a positive manner to the international community.
Dale Kobrin ’11, a student who wants to get involved in the relief effort, said he agrees that it is not apathy that is causing the lack of aid, but ignorance about the situation.
“People do understand what is going on; they just don’t understand the scope of it,” Kobrin said. “People are hearing about it; they just aren’t aware of how they can help.”
Hester believes that Pakistan will continue to need foreign aid for several years.
“The money Pakistan is going to need isn’t going to end in a few months,” she said. “It will take Pakistan three years to get back on track and then start rebuilding, and we want the whole campus to get involved. We’re hoping to get started raising money immediately.”
In the coming weeks, Chaudhry and Hester plan on having people sign up for events to lead. This way, more people will have an opportunity to get involved. Chaudhry and Hester want as many students involved as possible.
“The opportunities to help people are vast in Pakistan right now, and we need to help many people,” Chaudhry said.