Update from Pakistan

Dear friends,

We arrived in Pakistan a couple of days ago and want to inform you of our progress. We have contacted ambassadors, non-profit organizations dealing with the displaced people, and visited refugee camps.

We presented our proposal to Jerald Feirerstein, the DCM, at the American Embassy and his team. Liane Dorsey, Coordinator for Refugees, and Mr. Dwyers, of the USAID/OFDA and Jason Jefferys, the Political Officer,who were all enthusiastic to hear about the work we intend to carry out. Our main proposal of providing health-teams for the refugees from the local population was welcomed. We will also be providing names and list of professionals among the refugee population to Mr Dwyers of the USAID so he can circulate it to different NGO’s and encourage them to higher professions from the refugee population to provide services to other refugees living in camps. Our Family members have been giving immediate aid packages to newly displaced people. We will have a sustained campaign that will allow Swatis to get maximum services from their own people in this difficult environment while allowing them to maintain their dignity.

We have also met with the DCMs of Canada, UK, France and the Afghan acting Ambassador who were eager to do their part. The Afghan Ambassador relayed that this situation was familiar to him over the last decade in his own country. He was especially sympathetic as he is an ethnic Pashtun.

We have also met with non-profit organizations like the Human Development Foundation. We hope to coordinate our visits to the camps in Mardan with them. They will give us logistic support because they are familiar with the camps and the refugees who are living in various camps and schools. Mr. Eric Barese of Red Cross USA has put us in touch with their affiliate who is the Secretary-General of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society.

Yesterday we visited a camp of internally displaced Swatis now settled in the Adiyala area of Rawalpindi. There were 20 houses that had been hired by semi-professionals with 50 to 100 people per house. The majority in a household were children who were visiting the local madrassas in place of their regular schools. The Professionals complained that as they were not housed in tents they were not recognized and received the minimal of help. For these professionals standing in long lines for rations was humiliating and even then there was no guarantee that after hours of waiting that they would receive anything. The local population, however, have been most welcoming and cooperative in the short-term.

These internally displaced people feel very dejected and there is a cloud of gloom and doom hanging over the entire population. Since we arrived here, there have been four bomb blasts in two major cities (Lahore and Peshawar). We are working under these difficult circumstances and are also aware that things in Pakistan move slowly, but we feel we are making good headway. The internally displaced people are hoping that the problem will be resolved soon and that they will be able to return, otherwise they would not be able to afford rents or to sustain their families and the good will of the local population will dissipate.

We will continue to keep you posted about the situation here.

Best regards,

Zebu

Letter from the Founders

Dear Friends,

We have always felt a debt of gratitude to the social institutions under which we grew up: Pakistan in the 60’s.  Today, unfortunately, those institutions are but a pale semblance of what they used to be. We were privileged but came from families that, despite their station in society, gave and taught us to give of ourselves to those who were less privileged.

This background, and our subsequent achievements in life, put us in a position to help the most needy people in Pakistan.  We are most effective in Swat:  This is in the region we are from, this is where we best know the people and this is where the people know us well.

We started Swat Relief Initiative at a time when the people of Swat went through the first major trauma of three major disasters: the 2008 Taliban takeover, the ensuing 2009 war and the 2010 mega-floods.

The most vulnerable segments of Swati society are the women and children – they are our focus.  We bring the men along too, for they are key to helping develop a milieu in which women and children can grow into fully contributing members of society.

We have a holistic approach to social growth with programs in Social Mobilization, Health, Education, Economic Development and Sustainable Environment. While working in these areas of social development we partner, when necessary, with individuals and organizations that can supplement our expertise and impact.

Of course, we cannot do any of this without the help of your continuing generous contributions, which we continue to pledge will go directly to where they are needed the most: programs and projects on the ground that provide the greatest opportunity for less fortunate women and children to thrive.

Thanks,

Zebu and Arshad Jilani