Move over, Hollywood. There's not

by francine Hardaway on October 11, 2005

Move over, Hollywood. There’s not much you can do to rival the natural disasters that have occurred this year for sheer awe-inspiring video. In December we had the tsunami, and just as Katrina and Rita were running their courses on CNN, we were given (by a universe that MUST be angry) the earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir.

But I’m still an optimist. It’s amazing how tragedies have a way of bringing people together and creating opportunity from despair. It’s impossible to ignore the number of human lives sacrificed to these tragedies, but it’s also impossible to ignore the people from New Orleans who have been taken into other American cities and given homes and jobs.

It’s equally impossible to forget that the rebels have put down their arms in Indonesia, and now the people of India are offering aid to the people of Pakistan, and the Pakistanis are accepting the aid. The universe is telling us that we are all interconnected, and that petty land disputes, or even religious doctrinal differences, should take a back seat to our common humanity.

In Pakistan we have a special opportunity to help. I have a friend there, American educated, who returned home to start a technology business. He has been active in a charity that builds English language schools in Pakistan. It’s a
professionally managed, not-for-profit organization, established in August 1995 and formally incorporated in September 1996. The organization was set up by a group of citizens who were concerned by the dismal state of education in Pakistan.

TCF runs a network of 244 well-managed, purpose-built schools in urban slums and rural areas across Pakistan and serves all persons and communities on a completely non-discriminatory basis. In the past ten years, it has grown to an enrollment of 30,000 children, and pays special attention to enrolling women.

Do you know how much it costs to build a primary school in rural Pakistan? Only $84,000. Do you know many lives can be influenced by that school? Tens of thousands. It’s my personal belief that we could make more of an impact by building schools than by all of the fighting we’ve done in Iraq. I’m tempted to take up a collection to build a school myself.

But the earthquake creates a more immediate opportunity. Because it already runs the schools, TCF is in a great position to provide aid to the earthquake victims, and it has already gone into action.

“The suffering is of such a magnitude and scale that TCF was prompted to plan a two-phased strategy to provide systematic relief to the victims of this national calamity in the Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir.

Immediate Relief: Starting today, we will provide basic care packages including tents, blankets and food rations to 20,000 affectees for the next seven days, for which we need Pak Rupees 30 Million.

Permanent Housing: In the second phase, in association with other partners, we plan to construct 5,000 seismically designed homes over the next two years, each costing Pak Rupees 400,000. Our engineers and experts are already in the area and are monitoring the requirements on site, both short term and long term.”

Here’s where Americans can make a difference.

There’s a donation form on the Citizens Foundation web site. You can do it by credit card. It’s not like sending the money to the Red Cross, where you don’t know where it will go. If you donate here, you know it will go to earthquake victims directly, dispensed by people who know who they are, and who are familiar with our belief in education as the way to upward mobility.

I know we’ve already given a lot to victims of Mississipi and New Orleans. But next time you are thinking of going out to dinner, maybe you want to send some money for earthquake relief instead. You may avoid a future war by doing so.

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