Rebuilding the Nation, One House at a time!
“It was so humbling to turn around to see a 2 year old bare-footed girl with minimal clothing pulling my shirt, trying to tell me something in Pashto,” said Nadeem Jamil, a friendly banker from Lahore.
Nadeem Jamil, and his two friends Mudaser Nawaz and Adnan Kamal were three of the many young volunteers who refused to stay at home and watch the devastations of mighty flood, that changed the lives of about 20 million people in Pakistan this year. They ended up raising up to 22 lakh rupees, enough to build 25 houses for flood victims in flood struck village Nowshera Kalan!
A few months back, Pakistan once again got the attention of International community, but this time un-related to the religious extremism. The worst flooding in the recorded history of the country had hit and it was a catastrophe of a magnitude the country was not prepared for. Certainly not the unwary population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. They did not receive early flood-related warnings, leaving them no time to evacuate. The situation got many people restless and everyone wanted to do their part in helping the flood victims.
Like many other Pakistanis, Nadeem too had endless sittings with friends and other contacts about reaching out to the flood victims. People showed distrust in donating their money to public funds. They still had the eagerness and enthusiasm to reach out to those unfortunate families who had lost all their possessions and even loved ones in the flooding. This boosted their motivation and the three friends decided in mid-September to drive some 400 kilometers from Lahore to Nowshera city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. This was the area where the floods started and hit hardest. The city is located on the banks of the river Kabul. The river swells in summer due to the heavy monsoon rains and indirectly from the melting snow of Hindu Kush Mountains through its main tributary Kunar River. The Kabul joins the Indus River near Attock, over 20 kilometers from Nowshera. The three friends met army officials engaged in relief efforts and surveyed the surrounding villages, which were not part of the city’s cantonment area. They reached a village where little children started running after them, pulling their clothes to get their attention. This village was Nowshera Kalan, located on the north bank of the Kabul, whose population mostly comprised of local fishermen. The remnants of their mud houses still showed their remaining debris.
“It was risky actually to go into the village like this, to barge in, as it were, as the Pakhtun brothers are strict observers of ‘parda’ for their women and no matter if they possess much else, they always possess a weapon for protection!” Nadeem said smilingly. The people had been provided with three months ration by the Pakistan army, so during the meetings with the locals, concerns mostly pointed towards the approaching winter where many families were left without a roof on their heads. His friends had already started spreading the news of their visit through MMS and SMS while talking to the village elders. “We immediately started communicating via mobiles with people who showed interest in contributing in our effort and we still use this technique now that 50 percent of our target is complete,” he said while browsing through his notebook folders filled with images and videos they had taken.
By the time they got back to Lahore after their initial visit, they already had people pledging money, the first contributors being their own families. One of the parents of a friend cancelled their trip to Saudia Arabia for ‘Hajj’ and donated the money for the cause. This kick-started their plan to provide shelter, as it was enough to start the construction of six houses! The approach of the young group was both practical and remarkably attainable. They hired a contractor through the army officials who had the data of affected families. They received an estimate of Rs. 85,000 to build a house with two rooms, a veranda, a kitchen and a bathroom. Not all the affected families owned a kitchen or bathroom previously. They made sure they selected the most deserving which included widows and physically challenged people. To date, they have successfully built 12 houses and another 13 are under construction. “We are very confident and satisfied with the work we have done and also have something very concrete to show to our very generous individual donors who made this dream a reality!” The determination in Nadeem’s voice was clear. They plan to continue the work for this as long as they have contributors. He said they did not want to rely on funds from aid organizations or government to sustain their effort; they did whatever was in their power to make a change that was solution-oriented and long-lasting.
This is just one story of how both young and old Pakistanis from every field of life left the comforts of their homes and reached out to help those whose lives were washed away overnight. The mighty flood engulfed one fifth on the country. Despite all the challenges we are facing as a nation, there are numerous stories like these that we need to celebrate to keep going. Nadeem’s and other similar stories show us that we do not need the numerous politicians, who consume most of the air-time on Pakistani talk shows, to tell the younger generation what to do. The younger generation is already at work.