The immediate and long-term suffering caused by the floods in Pakistan was heartbreaking. The floods covered 20% of the land. 8 million people have been displaced. Crops have been wiped out, whole towns flooded, roads and bridges severely damaged. Pakistan, already struggling to recover from a massive earthquake in 2005, on-going Taliban terrorism, and large-scale poverty, faced the worst natural disaster in its history.
During our visit to Pakistan in April, we met with Samina Khan, the director of Sungi Development Foundation, and visited one of their projects. Sungi is a non-profit organization doing wonderful work in both disaster relief and grassroots development. They work with very low overhead and have a great system for getting urgent supplies to people in the far reaches of the country.
Samina told us that Sungi worked with USAID about a decade ago building schools, but they lost so much credibility it wasn’t worth the money. The problem is that USAID comes in with too much money, too many high expectations, and timelines that are too short. And corruption at all levels is inevitable. “It takes time and trust,” she said, “to help people help themselves. We take the time.”
We had no idea that the trust established at this meeting would enable us to work together in response to the floods that inundated much of Pakistan in July-August. Soon after the flood we contacted Samina and asked how we could send money to help with Sungi’s flood relief work.
We discovered that Sungi had no vehicle for receiving tax-deductible donations in the States, and that people who wanted to send donations had to go through a complicated and expensive process of wiring funds to Islamabad. So we set up a special fund through our non-profit organization, the Boulder Institute, for Pakistan flood relief. We sent out several email alerts to our extensive list serve, letting people know they could make donations by simply going to our website.
The response was overwhelming. Every day dozens of donations came in, from $10 to $10,000. In the space of three months we received more than $42,000 in donations from U.S. and European citizens, 100% of which we forwarded to Sungi. Sungi put these funds to immediate use, clearing roads, building pontoon bridges, providing medical supplies and services, food, blankets, and tents to Pakistanis affected by the flood.
This fund-raising campaign is now closed, but if you would like to help support continuing flood relief and grassroots development projects, visit www.sungi.org.
“I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for oneself, one’s family or nation, but also for the benefit of all human kind.”
– The Dalai Lama