Posts Tagged ‘ Mercy Corps ’

Pakistani Peace Builders Turn Cultural Diplomacy to Flood Relief

By Carrie Loewenthal Massey for America.gov

When Pakistani Americans Mahnaz Fancy and Zeyba Rahman launched Pakistani Peace Builders ( PPB ) in May, they did so to bring Pakistani music and heritage to American audiences. An independent cultural diplomacy campaign, PPB aimed to counteract stereotypes and misperceptions of Pakistanis that Fancy and Rahman saw becoming more prominent.

“The only way we know how to make a difference is to show the other face of Pakistan,” she added. “We as Pakistani Americans are very concerned about being misread and misconstrued.”

Exposing Pakistan’s rich cultural roots “is a really important way of explaining that the fundamentalists are a minority,” Fancy said.

In July, New York City delighted in a celebration of one aspect of Pakistani tradition at PPB’s first event, a hugely successful festival of Sufi music. Nearly 25 musicians representing different regions of Pakistan performed a free, outdoor show in Union Square, one of the most popular public spaces in Manhattan.

“It was an unbelievable experience. … People needed some way to feel good about themselves as Pakistani Americans,” Fancy said.

And then the floods came.

PPB immediately added a humanitarian angle to its cultural mission following the devastating floods that struck Pakistan in late July, killing 1,800 people, affecting more than 20 million others and destroying crops across the country. Building on the momentum generated by the Sufi festival, the PPB partnered with ML Social Vision, the venture philanthropy arm of Washington-based ML Resources, to start Relief4Pakistan, a grass-roots effort to mobilize funds for relief in the flood affected areas.

“As we were wrapping up the concert and the floods hit, I just kept getting phone calls from people all over [the United States] saying, ‘What do we do? How do we respond?’” said Fancy. “People had ideas of packing food and sending it. [The pace] was insane in that initial moment.”

To give donors some direction, Relief4Pakistan sends donations to Mercy Corps, a Seattle, Washington-based nongovernment organization. Mercy Corps has an established reputation and experience on the ground in Pakistan, according to Fancy. Some of Mercy Corps’ efforts include providing safe drinking water, setting up water filtration units and distributing food and relief materials.

Using Facebook and personal networks to encourage support and raise money, Relief4Pakistan has raised nearly $150,000 in aid since August.

“We’ve had donors from all over the place. We’ve had friends hosting events and sending the proceeds,” Fancy said.

Celebrity endorsements have helped bring in funds as well. Aasif Mandvi, an Indian-born, British-raised comedian and cast member of the popular U.S. television program The Daily Show, hosted a stand-up comedy night to benefit Relief4Pakistan, and Pakistani-American actor Faran Tahir — whose credits include Iron Man ( 2008 ) and Star Trek ( 2009 ) — has also joined the campaign.

Relief4Pakistan’s second phase of flood assistance launches in November with a major reconstruction project. The effort will focus on Bangla Ichha Union Council, a four-village area in the Rojhan subdistrict of the Rajanpur district in southern Punjab. According to Fancy, 95 percent of the 40,000 people living in the villages depend on their own crops for sustenance, and their fields remain ravaged by the floods.

“Our first goal is to plant at least 1,000 acres of wheat by the end of November. We want to raise money to get seeds and fertilizer for some of the most vulnerable people, those that own less than five acres of land,” Fancy said.

To complete the project, Relief4Pakistan is partnering with Operation USA, a Los Angeles–based relief agency that “shares our philosophy that development ought to be done by empowering the local community to learn skills and develop a sustainable strategy to take care of themselves,” explained Fancy. Relief4Pakistan and Operation USA are reaching out to local Pakistani organizations to tap their resources and train the community members in necessary skills.

Relief4Pakistan will raise funds through Facebook again, but has also already engaged a wider circle of American philanthropists, Fancy said. Their goal is to build a sort of global village, a network of people worldwide coming together to help, and Fancy hopes the model of “the power of a global village” will set a precedent for other successful relief efforts.

“We’re really riffing off of [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton’s ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ … Our overarching goal is to appeal to the humanity of the wider donor public,” said Fancy. “It takes effort from Pakistani Americans and Pakistanis in other countries … it’s the responsibility of each member of this global village.”

At the height of its flood relief efforts, PPB has not forgotten its mission of cultural diplomacy. In fact, much fundraising continues to come from film screenings, art exhibitions and comedy performances showcasing the talents of Pakistani artists.

“Part of our cultural mission is using culture to humanize [Pakistan] and at the same time putting it into action through these much needed flood relief efforts,” Fancy said.

PPB plans to hold more cultural events beyond those dedicated to flood relief. The organization would like to hold the Sufi music festival annually, expanding it to include artists from other South Asian countries.

“[We want] to show what Sufism is in other parts of the world. Pakistan is a microcosm of a larger issue, which is the whole Muslim world,” Fancy said. “Muslims in [South Asia] have been remarkably liberal and secular in comparison to what people think they are.”

Through PPB, Fancy, who is 41 years old, will keep working to transform the younger Pakistani-American generation’s misconceptions of the Muslim world.

“I find it so distressing that people of our parents’ generation know much more about Pakistan than our generation,” she said.

And she worries that the knowledge the younger generation has gained from the media has left it grossly misled about Pakistani and Muslim identities.

“This sense of being primitive and tribal is not the true modern history of this part of the world,” Fancy said. “It’s only true of the minority that has taken the loudspeaker and is misbroadcasting lots of things they think are collective traits [of Muslims], but they’re not.”

( This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov )

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Rescuing Pakistan’s Flood Survivors

Recovery efforts are underway in Pakistan where monsoon rains and severe flooding washed away tens of thousands of homes, killing thousands and leaving millions homeless.

How you can help? A number of charities are mobilizing medical, shelter and humanitarian aid, responding to the great need for flood survivors’ immediate needs.

AmeriCares emergency relief experts are working to send medical assistance and other aid to the flood-affected region in Pakistan. They are accepting online donations as well as phone donations at  1-800-486-HELP (4357)

British Red Cross is accepting donations of goods to the Pakistan Flood Appeal. Monetary donations in pounds can also be made online or by calling 0845 054 7206 in England.

CARE is supporting the distribution of emergency supplies and providing aid to health teams and mobile clinics in the affected communities in Pakistan. You can help by making an online donation.

Catholic Relief Services is currently organizing shipments of humanitarian aid to Balochistan, one of the affected areas. They are also sending emergency shelter kits and hygiene supplies to other flood-affected regions in Pakistan. Donations to their Emergency Relief fund are being accepted online and by phone at   1-800-736-3467.       

Concern Worldwide US is responding by sending emergency teams to the region, and they have launched their Pakistan Emergency Flood Appeal. They are working to provide about 9,000 families with kitchen sets and hygiene kits, clean water, temporary sanitation, and dry rations of food. Online donations can be made dollars, euros and pounds.

Church World Service is distributing food packages and shelter material for flood-affected families in Balochistan, Khan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as mobilizing a health unit to offer emergency medical assistance in Mansehra. Your donation can be made online and by phone at  1-800.297-1516        

Direct Relief International is providing emergency medical aid to healthcare partners responding to disaster in Pakistan. Donations to their Emergency Response fund can me made online and by calling  1-800-676-1638    

Doctor’s Without Borders is supporting basic health units in the flood-affected areas of Pakistan. The organization is also helping with water distribution to health structures, as well as hygiene products, cooking sets and other supplies. They are planning to send additional personnel and mobilizing resources to assist relief efforts. Contributions can be made online and by phone at 1-888-392-0392      

International Committee of the Red Cross continues to distribute relief supplies to over 7,000 flood victims in Balochistan. The ICRC and its partners are finalizing medical contingency plans for flood-affected areas, and for repairing critical water infrastructure. You contribute by making a donation in numerous currencies online.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are performing rapid needs assessments in affected areas and distributing food coupons and other relief items including tents, hygiene kits, tarpaulin sheets and kerosene stoves. They have also set up a medical camp in Sultan to offer immediate medical aid to affected families. You can help now by making an online donation.

Islamic Relief USA is providing food and water for 700 families In Noshara, distributing emergency supplies and working with the United Nations World Food Program to distribute food to 2,000 families in Bakhtiarabad. Islamic Relief has launched a campaign to aid the victims of the floods, which you can support by making an online donation.

Mercy Corps is accepting donations to provide flood victims in the hard-hit Swat Valley with water, food and tools to clean up and rebuild. You can donate online.

Oxfam Great Britain is looking to provide the needed temporary shelter, clean drinking water and toilets to help avert a public health catastrophe. They are accepting online donations in pounds, euros and dollars, and can be reached by telephone internationally at  +44 (0) 1865 47 2602. In England, you can text ‘DONATE’ to 70066 to make a donation of 5 pounds to their Pakistan Floods Appeal.

ShelterBox distributed hundreds of ShelterBoxes to families rescued from the flood in the Punjab and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPK) regions. Find out how to become part of the ShelterBox Team or help the efforts by making an online donation in the UK and the US.

SOS Children’s Villages supports the children of Pakistan through different programs across the country and offers care of lone children following the disaster, as they did after the Kashmir Earthquake. You can make a direct donation in dollars or pounds and you can sponsor a child in Pakistan here.

UNICEF‘s Pakistan office is providing assistance for water and sanitation, health, and nutrition. They are distributing clean water and water purification tablets to prevent water-borne diseases and will continue to asses the situation to determine if further fundraising appeal is needed. If you are interested in becoming a UNICEF volunteer click here or support flood-relief efforts by making an online donation.

World Food Programme is making food distributions to 35,000 families affected by the flooding in Northwestern Pakistan. WFP Pakistan plans to assist up to 150,000 families over the next few months as access to the affected areas improves. You can help by making an online donation in either euros, dollars, pounds or yens.

World Vision is working to distribute food and clean water to the affected communities in Pakistan. They have created the World Vision’s Flood Relief Fund which you can support it by making an online donation.

Operation Blessing International is sending emergency medical relief teams to Peshawar, Pakistan. Working with their disaster relief partner charity Humedica, OBI will offer medical treatment and distribute food, clean drinking water and emergency building supplies to thousands in need from this flood. Support for OBI’s disaster relief efforts can be made online or by calling 1-800-730-2537  

Save the Children is providing food and water, shelter, sanitation and other immediate needs for the families and communities affected by this disaster. They are accepting donations to their Pakistan Children in Emergency Fund online as well as by phone by calling in the US    1-800-728-3843

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