Yes, we can make a difference

Published: August 13, 2010

Flood victims wait to get relief goods including buckets, mats and tents in Nowshera, a town of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa PHOTO: EPA

If you think running a relief camp is a joke, think again. Do you wish away volunteers who pop up at every corner? Please, don’t. They are there for a reason.

Two weeks ago, I was spending what was a very boring afternoon with a jet-lagged aunt, who, for some odd reason was very worked up about the floods in Khyber-Pakhtukhwa. As news about the death toll poured in, and she started arranging for boats, I thought that, maybe – just maybe – something more tragic than the airplane crash had happened. However, as news poured in over the course of the week any remaining dregs of apprehension vanished. I called my aunt, National Commission for Human Development’s chairperson, to ask what I could do to help. “Beg,” she told me. And beg I did.

I sent out two hundred text messages, went  to the administrations of Agha’s, Forum, Macro and Clifton Cantonment Board to get permission to set up camps, called Naheed Khala’s driver’s friend to set up the tent, and called all my younger cousins to help as the NCHD staff was busy with relief efforts in the interior.

Here’s one piece of advice if you’re thinking of doing something similar: don’t rely too much on friends from places like Karachi Grammar School or Convent of Jesus and Mary. Take it from me; I learnt it the hard way. People who party and have fun with you aren’t the ones who will necessarily come to help you. They probably think that they will have to contribute handsomely for your cause.  But, your five year old cousin will definitely come to help and donate her pocket money for good measure.

Armed with a team of 10 teens and preteens (whose ages range between 6-14 years), I set about business. Although I was disappointed by most of my so-called friends, the response from strangers left me awestruck. Ordinary people, complete strangers, put money in our boxes and food and clothes for our collection drive.

Our money graph grew exponentially – we collected around forty-seven thousand on the first day, and after that there was no turning back.  A whopping Rs 109,000, Rs 139,000, Rs 200,600 and finally Rs 318,655 made their way to our bank account on the second, third, fourth, and fifth days respectively. Most of this money came in the form of coins and ten rupee notes, making every penny earned very precious. I think these five days taught me and all the kids just how valuable rupee coins can become when they add up. And if the money surprised us, the response in kind sent shock waves down our infrastructure – we collected so many things on our second day that our table broke! And in only two days, we were able to send our first truck to the Interior.

This morning, I saw my second truck off. And if all goes according to plan, I’ll be there to receive it when it reaches its destination. I hadn’t thought it would be possible to achieve so much in such little time: every fiber in my swollen feet screams gratitude to the kids who stood with me, sometimes for seven hours or more without taking any breaks for food or water and to all those people who donated in cash or kind.

So, if you’re planning on setting up a camp, here’s another thing to bear in mind – for all the arm chair cynics and drawing room critics, you’ll meet a lot of people, both young and old who will be willing to help with their time, effort and energy.  As I set off for the flood affected areas, one thing is pretty clear to a former cynic: there’s still hope for this country.

You can donate Rs10 to help affectees by texting ‘D’ to 2471. To learn more about how to help visit D for Donate


Morial Shah

A student of International Politics and Security at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University She tweets at @MoruShah.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Dr Qaisar Rashid

    Keep on doing good work! Be an example for others to follow. In youngsters lies the hope for the better future of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Rao Amjad Ali

    Bravo, bravo, bravo! Not that you can, you have already made the difference! I slaute you for your work and hope that this will awaken the same spirit in others as they read your account. My suspicion is that we are a very charitable nation but do not necessarily have the skills to program it in an effective manner and you have shown how it can be effected in just a few days. I am very proud of you!Recommend


    Keep up the good work! But the thing I didn’t like about the article was the mentioning of the chairperson for the National Commission for Human Development being your aunt, as you could have mentioned that person but there was no need to brag about your relationship with her. Similar scenes of bragging about one’s contacts were seen during the aid collection camp at Royal Rodale Club,Karachi which really saddened me.Recommend

  • Schazad

    I don’t have words to say to you. You are an angel. God bless you and we definitely need more people like to come up with their wonderful and innovative ideas and then our country will prosper. God bless you.Recommend

  • Dr Qaisar Rashid

    @Critic. Let these young Pakistanis brag and push them do the humanitarian work.
    When we, as a nation, start recognising their social services and contributions towards society, there will left less need for them to what you call a brag. The writer of the article is a student and took help of kids to collect funds and things. So, let them brag more and be encouraged to do the relief work.Recommend


    Sir, I was generally speaking about influential people who have stepped in to help people. If you are volunteering for a good purpose, no matter how many stupid people you meet, you must not lose temper and start cursing people on their faces no matter how politically strong you are. This was my bottom-line which I did not intend to publicize here. It goes for everyone.Some people know what I am talking about.
    Plus, I firstly appreciated her for the contribution that she has made in the time of crisis, and I continue to support any other person/organisation who takes serving humanity as a duty. So hats off to Morial Shah too.Recommend

  • abid

    I want to help out but don’t know where in Islamabad. I am not the leader but a follower and if I find someplace where my help is needed I will volunteer. Any suggestions?Recommend

  • saira

    Kuddos to you and others who are trying to make a difference! Pakistanis need to stand up and stand united in this cause. Where the heck is everybody? If each and every one of you donates a rupee, imagine the revolution you would be causing in pakistan. Don’t rely on the terrorist organisations to serve the poor for their funds. Get up and do the job right yourselves. It is YOUR farz to help the poor and needy. So, don’t wait, stand up and fight for the cause. Thank you for doing such a good job.Recommend

  • saira

    Check your email box. Just sent you a thank you note :)Recommend

  • Immy

    Hats off to youRecommend

  • Ghausia

    What you’ve done is really amazing, and I really hate saying anything negative, but just like your first article at Tribune, (Which I remember not just because I disliked it, but because it was still very well written)you’ve let personal bias get in the way of objective writing. I mean, I’m sorry, but we’ve all partied with our friends at school, that doesn’t mean they’ll make time for us once we graduate. So your bitterness with them is very childish and for me, it cast a shadow over an otherwise negative article. I read about your efforts in an earlier article, and what struck a chord for me was that most people use their sources for personal gain, but you did it for the greater good. Its an amazing thing you did, and very awe inspiring. Just keep the personal bitterness out of your writing in future.Recommend

  • SD

    God bless u…keep it upRecommend

  • Rao Amjad Ali

    Abid – Among many others, you can volunteer through Red Cross, The Red Crescent Society and Edhi Foundation.Recommend

  • Hamood

    Excellent work Morial, I have been donating here to charities here in the US but I wish I could be doing what are doing. Hats off to people like you. Its people like you who still make me believe that Pakistan has a bright future.Recommend

  • zahid

    What you’ve done is really amazing
    I firstly appreciated YOU for the contribution that you have made in the time of crisis, and I continue to support any other person/organisation who takes serving humanity as a duty
    Keep on doing good work!
    God bless u morial shah…Recommend

  • Isfand

    Keep it up!! God bless you.Recommend

  • sana batool

    hey! i know the first step is the most important and difficult one to everything and it is a blessing of our nation to have people like you. dear friend, i also want to volunteer,how can i be of any service? plz do let me know.Recommend