Last month, Aki Nawaz (better known as the British musician, singer and songwriter with the band Fun-Da-Mental, and founder of Nation Records) advertised on Facebook for cash donations to take directly to some of the people suffering in Pakistan as a result of the recent floods. Many people, white, black, Pakistani, English, Muslim, Christian, and Atheist donated hard cash. Aki loaded his suitcase with notes, and took off… here is his report, written especially for Muslim Community Care:
“This is an update report for people who trusted me with their money to help people in Pakistan who had suffered from the floods.
Firstly I would like to apologize for having been slightly silent. In Pakistan doing anything carries an adventure with it – honestly, you could write a book every day!
Anyhow after being let down at the last second to visit some off-the-road places to help people sufferings from the floods, a new-found friend from the UK who was on the same mission phoned me and we hooked up, collectively to get down to some action.
We set off early Thursday morning towards Peshawar, heading towards a town called Charshada, which incidentally, I had seen on some media report, had been badly damaged.
Our first instinctive plan was to actually find camps, where people had lost everything, so we could give them money.
There were alarm bells going off about “hi-jackings, theft, terrorists, murders” from the State media – yet for this journey we saw nothing except warm faces and open hands. For some reason whenever people want to do things without Govt involvement, scare stories appear in their abundance.
The whole journey was spent shoving rupees into envelopes; we wanted to be discreet when handing people money and we did not want any thanks, just a smile, knowing that having money in their pockets gives people a certain choice. We had worked out we could help maybe 200 families in one quick action. The exchange rate was OK but suddenly having hundreds of thousands of bank notes is a bit overwhelming and scary.
Not many organizations were giving money but plenty of aid/food was seen on the roads, however an absence of Govt-pledged aid, nothing new there!.
When we arrived at the small town near Charshada, we were slightly perturbed to not be taken to a camp with TENTS. However the people leading relief operations gave us some food for thought and specifically asked us to view the town: everything they said was true.
The town was devastated and people had only returned from Camps due to their will to not accept charity and depend on handouts; they themselves as a community were very charitable to people in need.
The people here had basically lost everything – their fertile land, which had served generations, had suddenly become beaches, yes, sand, which had been brought down by the river Indus, had buried their crops. Their houses were destroyed and I could not believe the amount of mud inside the houses: the walls had been smashed and mud up to 9 feet deep had submerged the buildings. Two storey buildings looked even more perversely impressive as they stood on thin air, with furniture disfigured by rain and mud, mattresses hung from the walls as if they had been slaughtered by a serial killer who left his mark, he left half of them intact and brutally knifed the other half.
Whole families who collectively lived here and spent a lifetime together were roofless, floorless and wall-less.
The livestock had disappeared overnight, corpses had poisoned the water and the wells were now just mud-filled. The earth somehow appeared to be growing human materials. Clothes, utensils, crockery… all buried deep in airless thick mud.
There had been no warnings, nothing to let them know what was about to change their lives. Somewhere deep in the mud lay their wealth and the little necessities of life… This disaster has set them back for many years, nothing can be earned for many moons.
200 people had heard that some people were arriving to give them something and a local organization, (off the radar of NGO’s and Govt, but well known) had, against all the odds, brought some normality by having their foot soldiers clean the streets of mud and give people some confidence to get up and help themselves.
They had given tokens and created a list of names so that there was some order when these people arrived. I am sure the people expected the promised 20,000 rupees before Eid by the Govt but all they got was two regular looking guys handing them money, which was basically enough to put a smile on their face! For a few days they had some money in their pockets, most probably the same amount they had for a regular weeks work.
We left and headed towards a camp; we insisted we wanted to distribute money to people who were basically refugees. We arrived at the Kabul Bridge and saw some of the mayhem reported in the media, as the layman in Pakistan, who has no trust in the institutes arriving to hand out aid.
Quietly we spoke to the head of the camp, who organized 176 people/families to receive money from us, old, young, male and female and children. With a certain amount of imposed authority, they lined up and smiled as they received hard cash in hand, everyone of them had a story in their eyes but for a fraction of a second they felt the next few days would be easier.
The main man then drove around to a small village on the other side of the river, which looked as if a US drone had hit it, it was once a village with many colours and happy ambiance, now it felt heavy attempting to groan with the weight of water and mud covering it. Once proud people were placed on the edges in tents, they were not enjoying this attention, it impacted on their cultural sensitivities… however the children were happy as they saw people from another planet arrive to help them. Once again in a very orderly fashion they lined up and took their small amount of cash – all 76 families had got something in their pockets for the night.
The local organization not once asked us for anything but were slightly embarrassed they could not feed us or give us cold water as the heat from the sun brought out sweat-creating rivers across our cheeks. It was fasting month and they were too dedicated to their faith to see the enormity of their despair and think it would be better to be strong and work, life can wait, it was a matter of a day or two, already they had stayed true for the last 29 days. And the floods had started a few days before then.
We had given them twice what some people had suggested but the fact that we had collectively helped approx 450 people in a matter of hours was a fantastic feeling.
We intend to go back in a few days and do what the authorities could do with the correct intention, and see a smile and a feeling that they have some worth and that people do care about them. The Govt will sit on the donated money from various sources and create a disaster economy for their friends, I know that and so do the people, it has happened before, I was a witness and now once again they will do the same.
The organization helping them has created field hospitals, fed them, kept them clothed and safe, yet this organization has been undermined once again as it had during the earthquake. They were doing the work from a grass-roots level and “on time and in real time” whilst the others look for best interest rates on the “global markets” from the donations they have received from good people, from all walks of life.
I purposely told everyone that the donation was not from me but from people of all faiths and no faiths, people of all colours, who had no colour, they replied “bless them all”.
Still have money and will go elsewhere in a few days – thank-you for trusting me on your behalf.”
A fantastic effort from Aki there, but much more needs to be done: please spare anything you can for us. MCC is trying to buy a million water-purifying tablets to send to Pakistan, as clean water is the most basic necessity people there need right now.